It’s alarming that the CIA is urging the White House to significantly expand the agency’s fleet of armed drones to continue lethal air strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and now North Africa, while using the attacks on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi to bolster the need to continue the endless “war on terror” (“CIA Wants More Armed Drones,” Oct. 19). These action-at-a-distance weapons allow the United States to destroy targets in the Mideast while “hiding” in places like Nevada. Oftentimes, those who operate the drones do so with complete impunity for the thousands of innocent civilians who get caught in their crossfire.
In her new book “Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control,” U.S. activist, author and founder of Codepink Women for Peace and Global Exchange Medea Benjamin explains why the use of drone warfare is inflaming sentiment against the United States and making our country less safe. Just back from a peacekeeping trip to Pakistan, Ms. Benjamin will give firsthand accounts of the illegal and immoral ramifications of drone warfare on Thursday, Nov. 8, at the University of Pittsburgh and again that evening when she accepts the Peace and Social Justice Award from the Thomas Merton Center at The Sheraton in Station Square.
Every U.S. citizen should be concerned about the use of this aggressive type of warfare and demand international dialogue about the direction, ethics and legality of the use of drones by the United States.
The writer is coordinator of Codepink Pittsburgh Women for Peace and a board member of the Thomas Merton Center in Garfield.
For Immediate Release
Alli McCracken, email@example.com 034 1985 3545
Medea Benjamin, firstname.lastname@example.org 033 6597 8798
On Friday, October 6th, a delegation of 32 CODEPINK peace activists will set out on a historical march to Waziristan, where US drones have been killing so many innocent people. They will be joining political leader Imran Khan and many thousands of Pakistanis in the first-ever attempt to march to the troubled tribal areas that have been off-limits to non-residents. The group will spend the night of October 6th in Dera Ismail Khan and on October 7th the caravan will proceed to the village of Kotkai, where a massive rally is planned.
The march has already created a stir throughout the country of Pakistan, and internationally. Rumors have been swirling of possible attacks by local militants, and the US embassy has said that it cannot guarantee that drones will not strike during the march. Nonetheless, the group is determined to go ahead.
When asked why she was going to participate in this march considering the serious security risks, Dianne Budd, a medical doctor from San Francisco, answered, “Of course I’m concerned about our security, but I am even more concerned about the security of the people of Waziristan who face constant threats and terror from the drones flying above their heads twenty-four hours a day.”
On Friday, the group met with about a dozen drone attack survivors who came to Islamabad to tell their stories. “I felt horrified and ashamed hearing how these drones have not only killed these people’s loved ones but have disrupted their daily lives,” said Chelsea Faria, 22 years old from Northampton, Massachusetts, and the youngest member of the delegation. “We were told that people are afraid to send their children to school, attend community meetings, go to weddings and funerals, because they never know when a drone might hit.”
The delegation is anxious to show Pakistanis, three-fourths of whom consider America their enemy, that there are Americans who care about their lives and are determined to change US foreign policy. “We also feel this march will put significant pressure on the Obama administration to come clean about these drone attacks, to recognize how inhumane and counterproductive they are,” said CODEPINK cofounder Medea Benjamin. “We will continue to find ways to protest these barbaric assassinations until they finally end,” she added.
For Immediate Release
Medea Benjamin, Codepink, email@example.com, +923365978798
Alli McCracken, Codepink, firstname.lastname@example.org, +923419853545
Robert Naiman, Just Foreign Policy, +923419853377
Islamabad, Pakistan— Today the full CODEPINK delegation to Pakistan will arrive in Islamabad to begin a week of activities to express their opposition to US drone strikes in Pakistan. A pre-delegation group of American activists has been on the ground in Pakistan for several days meeting with think tanks, human rights organizations, and military and academic institutions.
The response from Pakistanis has been overwhelmingly positive and welcoming, and many plan to join the CODEPINK contingent as it marches to South Waziristan to protest US drone strikes on October 7th. “We are already receiving an outpouring of support from Pakistani people who are heartened to learn that there are Americans with a conscience who are willing to come all the way to Pakistan to show solidarity and apologize for the drone strikes that have brought so much death and destruction to the impoverished people of north Pakistan,” said CODEPINK cofounder and delegation leader Medea Benjamin.
On Wednesday, October 3, the delegation will meet with two victims from the first drone strike ever conducted during Obama’s presidency on January 23, 2009, which killed nine people—all civilians. One victim is Fahim Qureshi, who lost an eye, and had to have abdominal surgery because the drone missile pierced his stomach. He also lost 4 members of his family. The other victim is Mohammad Ejaz, who lost 2 family members.
Afterwards the delegation will meet with lawyers of the Foundation for Fundamental Rights who brought a lawsuit in the Peshawar High Court against the Pakistani government for its involvement in drone strikes and another case in Islamabad against CIA officials for committing murder on Pakistani soil. The delegation will then deliver petitions with tens of thousands of American signatures opposing the lethal U.S. use of drones to U.S. Embassy officials.
LARGO — Seventy-five protesters, many dressed in pink, gathered outside the local production plant of Raytheon on Thursday, denouncing the defense contractor for its role in drone warfare.
The demonstration, organized by the groups CodePink and St. Pete for Peace, marked the unofficial start of protests surrounding the Republican National Convention, set to kick off Monday in Tampa.
“Raytheon, shame on you,” they chanted. “Children die because of you.”
The director of the Young-Rainey Star Center was not happy to see a collection of elaborately costumed demonstrators — a Grim Reaper and a carrot-shaped helicopter among them — congregating in his parking lot.
“The right of way is over there,” Paul Sacco said. The property is owned by the Pinellas County Industrial Development Authority.
“I’m very confused,” said Tighe Barry, dressed in pink and a straw hat with a Hello Kitty ribbon. “It seems to me this is county land. I have a First Amendment right to be here.”
Medea BenjaminOutside the convention, protesters staged a mock drone attack.
When are we, as a nation, going to have a frank discussion about drones and remote-controlled killing? One might think that such a dialogue could take place when thousands of people come together, once a year, at the gathering of the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). Wrong.
But AUVSI, the lobby group for the drone industry, brooked no dissent at its August 6-9 Las Vegas Convention. When I, as author of a new book Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control, tried to rent a room at the Convention Center to give a presentation on my book, AUVSI vetoed my request. When I tried to register as a journalist, I was told that I did not meet their criteria, but they refused to say what that criteria was. And after registering online as a normal participant and paying the $200 fee, when I appeared to get my badge I was yanked off the line, surrounded by police, and told I would be arrested if I set foot in the Convention Center during the duration of the gathering.
The same thing happened to Father Louie Vitale, an 80-year-old Franciscan priest who had registered and pre-paid for the conference. Father Vitale is known for his dignified, faith-driven stance against war, including drone killing. “There’s something from my Air Force days that fascinates me about drones, which is one of the reasons I wanted to get in to see the exhibits,” said Father Vitale, “but I also wanted to have conversations with some of the drone manufacturers and operators.” That was not to be. Unprovoked, Father Vitale found himself surrounded by Convention Security and Las Vegas police, who threatened him with arrest.