Protesters march to the perimeter fence of RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire to protest its use as a centre for drone piloting in Afghanistan. Photograph: Matthew Cooper/PA
Hundreds of peace campaigners gathered outside an RAF base today to protest against armed drones being operated from Britain to conduct missions in Afghanistan.
Around 400 demonstrators took part in a march from Lincoln to a rally at nearby RAF Waddington, which assumed control of British drone missions in Afghanistan earlier this week.
The Guardian revealed on Thursday that the RAF had begun remotely operating its Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles from the Lincolnshire airbase.
The drones were previously operated from a United States Air Force base in Nevada.
Chris Cole, a coordinator of the Drone Campaign Network, said the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to wage war raised numerous legal, ethical and moral issues. Speaking near RAF Waddington’s perimeter fence, Mr Cole said: “This is the new home of drone warfare in the UK and there are questions about the growing use of these armed, unmanned systems.
“Because of their remote nature, there is no risk to any of our forces and that makes it easier to launch weapons and makes it much easier for politicians to get involved in warfare.” Read More
Noor Mir and Rooj Alwazir | CODEPINK
Noor is the Pakistani-American anti-drone campaign coordinator at CODEPINK.
Rooj is a Yemeni-American activist and organizer with SupportYemen.
We are not here to proffer an analysis. We aren’t academics. We are here as a Pakistani and a Yemeni, as activists, as citizens of this country and as citizens of our homelands. We are dismayed. We are confused. But we are not hopeless.
We had been waiting for this hearing for a long time. With a handful of location and time changes, rumors floating around of Rand Paul as a witness and a push by human rights organizations around the globe to make calls to their senators and ask them to pose the important questions about civilian casualties of the secret war, the momentum had crescendoed by the time the moment finally approached on Tuesday. We were the first in line at noon for the 4 pm hearing, amused by the cameras trained on members of the Intelligence Committee as they were hurried by their staff into their closed meeting on the Boston bombings. One of our colleagues stood in the receiving line and asked senators the same question as they speed-walked past him, undoubtedly avoiding the activist in pink, “What about Abdulrahman Al-awlaki? He was just a boy? Will you ask about why they killed him with a drone strike?” James Risch eloquently responded with a simple “No.”
Hart 216, ironically the same room where Brennan’s first public confirmation hearing was held and that we disrupted, was filled with journalists and activists, many in Amnesty’s black shirts with white targets. Testimonies started with Retired Marine Corp General James Cartwright and moved down the line, each one with a more or less “pro-drone reform” spin. Rosa Brooks, a law professor at Georgetown spoke of the antiquity of the AUMF with regards to targets with more and more tenuous links to al-Qaeda such as Somalia’s al-Shabaab. We nodded. Ilya Somin, a law professor at George Mason, smiled broadly as he explained that enemy combatants on U.S. soil could be lawful drone targets. Retired Col. Martha McSally was introduced as a special guest of Lindsey Graham’s, which became more and more evident as the hearing proceeded and she spoke about how we were better off calling drones “remotely piloted aircrafts or RPAs” (not dissimilar from CEO of pro-drone lobby AUVSI Michael Toscano’s remark at the Judiciary hearing last month that drones have a negative connotation and we are better off calling them unmanned aerial vehicles). We winced. Peter Bergen spoke about calculating the dead and noted that civilian casualties were significantly reduced in 2013. Then Farea al-Muslimi, a friend from Yemen, took the microphone.
Spencer Ackerman | Wired
Farea al-Muslimi just wants the U.S. drone strikes in his home country of Yemen to stop. Photo courtesy of Farea al-Muslimi
Powerful Americans are beginning to listen to Farea al-Muslimi, a 23-year-old, California-educated Yemeni who wants to stop the drone strikes in his country. Including some in the White House.
Danger Room has confirmed that before he leaves Washington D.C. on Friday, al-Muslimi will meet with White House officials to tell them what he told a Senate subcommittee yesterday: CIA and military drone strikes are strengthening al-Qaida’s Yemeni affiliate and making average Yemenis hate America.
“He will meet with a working-level expert on Yemen policy,” a White House official confirms, declining to provide the name of the official or the time of the meeting. In other words, he shouldn’t count on an Oval Office sit-down with the President — or even a quick meet with Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco. And the meeting isn’t a response to al-Muslimi’s testimony yesterday.
But there’s buzz now around al-Muslimi, a Sana’a-based freelance writer on public policy. And that didn’t exist the last time he came to Washington — when al-Muslimi also had a White House meeting. In September, he recalls to Danger Room, al-Muslimi trudged from one drab policymaker’s office to another — he declines to give specifics — while his interlocutors grew uncomfortable when he wanted to talk about the human costs of the drones. “It was a taboo,” al-Muslimi says, “like if you’re talking in a conservative society about sex.”
These days drones are sexy. Yesterday, al-Muslimi publicly told a Senate Judiciary subcommittee that the drones cause “psychological fear and terror” amongst average Yemenis and strengthen the very terrorists they’re supposed to kill. Even James “Hoss” Cartwright, a retired Marine general once in the thick of administration drone-strike deliberations, allowed during the hearing that the drones were costing America “the moral high ground.” A trail of D.C. journalists are competing for al-Muslimi’s time — that’s how rare it is for Americans to even to hear second-hand accounts of drone attacks. And the White House is still willing to meet with a man whose message is, he says simply, “stop this program.” Read More
CALLING ALL NEW YORKERS
You’ve heard of U.S. military drones spying on and killing people overseas. That could happen here in our hometown, so let’s stop it before it starts. There is precedent. On March 18, 2013, in Seattle, Washington, Mayor Mike McGinn ordered the city police department to scrap plans it had to roll out drones, and instead to focus its resources on public safety and the community building work that is the city’s priority. In Charlottesville, Virginia a version of the resolution presented below, calling for a moratorium on drones in Charlottesville, was passed on February 4, 2013.
Let us join other cities and persuade our City Council to pass a resolution banning the use of drones in New York City. The Granny Peace has spoken with with a representative in every New York City Council Member’s office about the resolution. Most often we spoke with the legislative director. Next we sent this resolution to all New York City Council Representatives and also to a staff member.
Below is an Anti-Drone Resolution written by David Swanson and modified for use in New York City by the Granny Peace Brigade. The original anti-drone resolution was presented to the Charlottesville City Council in December 2012. It is clear that drones are here to stay. Only by constant vigilance and outcry will we be able to stop the use of drones in NYC for all but humanitarian reasons. A resolution such as this would be a good first step.Read the resolution here
Faith-based organizations continue to express outrage at the Administration’s continued use of lethal drones, with a new letter addressed to President Obama being issued this week. This wave of faith-based mobilization was spearheaded by the Friends Committee on National Legislation, and the detailed letter raises several important moral and ethical issues related to the use of killer drones, including: 1) A threshold question: Is the U.S. at war? 2) If the U.S. is not at war, then other principles of human and civil rights must govern U.S. actions. 3) Targeted killings do not address the root causes of conflicts and thus will not end violence against the U.S. 4) The natural checks on lethal violence must be maintained. Read the letter here.
CODEPINK worked with a large coalition of faith-based communities to oppose the nomination of John Brennan as CIA director. Around the same time, the National Black Church Initiative (NBCI), a faith-based coalition of 34,000 churches comprised of 15 denominations and 15.7 million African Americans, issued a scathing statement about Obama’s drone policy, calling it “evil,” “monstrous” and “immoral.” The group’s president, Rev. Anthony Evans, exhorted other black leaders to speak out, saying, “If the church does not speak against this immoral policy we will lose our moral voice, our soul, and our right to represent and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Amanda Terkel | The Huffington Post
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has canceled the creation of a controversial new medal that would have honored drone pilots and cyber warriors, after veterans organizations and members of Congress expressed outrage that it would outrank some battlefield medals like the Purple Heart.
The Distinguished Warfare Medal was approved in February by then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, intended to honor members of the military for achievements beyond the battlefield since Sept. 11, 2001. The backlash to the medal centered around the fact that it would have taken precedence over several traditional combat awards, which require that the recipient risk his or her life in order to receive them.
On March 12, Hagel said the Defense Department would be conducting a 30-day review of the medal.
In announcing the decision on Monday, Hagel said in a statement that the review confirmed the need to recognize these post-9/11 achievements and acknowledge the changing nature of warfare, but added that “misconceptions regarding the precedence of the award were distracting from its original purpose.” In response, there will be a “distinguishing device” for extraordinary achievements rather than a new medal. Read more
Protesters hold signs and chant slogans outside the White House in Washington on April 13, 2013 during a demonstration against the use of dones against Islamic militants and other perceived enemies of the US around the world. (AFP Photo/Nicholas Kamm)
As Washington pushes to expand its drone warfare in Africa, hundreds have gathered in front of the White House to protest the “robotic killing machines” slaughtering thousands across the globe.
Organized by the ANSWER coalition, the movement is calling on the administration to stop the use of drones on foreign soil. The coalition urges its members to stop the US government as it “functions as a death squad government, permitting the president and military leaders to create secret ‘kill lists’ of people who have been selected for assassination.”
On the organization’s website people have voiced their reasons behind their protest.
“No one should sit passively and allow our government to wage a ‘quiet war’ – an undeclared war but a real war in our name!” Rev. Graylan Hagler, a senior minister wrote.
“It’s time we Americans join the rest of the world in condemning President Obama’s barbaric drone killing spree, a policy that benefits the war profiteers but makes us hated around the world,” Medea Benjamin, Co-Founder of CODEPINK said in her post. Read More