Notes from the CodePink Drone Summit

Notes from the CodePink Drone Summit

Drone Summit 2013 Notes
  by Denisse Giron, Long Island Peace Intern at Hofstra University

Drones Around the Globe: Proliferation and Resistance

Conference in Washington, DC, Nov.15-16, 2013

Hosted by Code Pink & many others



Dr. Cornel West

-“This is a love movement…love is what justice looks like”

-“Rich kids get taught, poor kids get tested” – on end of art programs

-“I come from a generation of people lifting their voice, not raising echoes [of mainstream media].”

-Education vs. schooling

-The importance of engaging in non-violent street action with a moral and spiritual foundation based on principle

-Congressional briefing with drone victims from Yemen: Tuesday. 11/19 @ Rayburn Building Room 2455, 4pm

Mary Ellen O’Connell – Kroc Institute

-Bush administration failed to acknowledge drone program + entered Yemen in 2004

-Days after entering office in January, Obama authorized a drone strike that killed a family, including a 5 year old

-Obama ordered doubling of drones when comparing 2008 to 2009 (Bush Admin vs. Obama Admin)

-United Nations Charter, Article 2: general prohibition to the use of force

        -Article 51: gave exception to 9/11 because was in defense, but does not justify drone strikes because there is no armed conflict

        -Self-defense ended in Afghanistan after 2002 – strikes are unjustifiable

-Attorney General Eric Holder said drone strikes within the US are unlawful but why not overseas? Biggest Al-Qaeda attack was in the US

-Need peace, reconciliation, and anti-terrorism around the world

Pardiss Kebriaei – Center Constitutional Rights

-500 = conservative number for people killed + 4,000 = liberal number for people killed (But neither number correctly reflects psychological trauma)

-Department of Justice’s definition of “imminence” doesn’t require clear evidence of specific attack in the immediate future

-Of thousands killed, US government only acknowledges 4 killed, all US citizens

        -Many negative views and accusations of Anwar al-Awlaki


Marjorie Cohn – National Lawyers Guild/Association of American Jurists

-Congress only gave authority to defend against the people and organizations that carried out, aided, and supported 9/11 attacks = currently breaking law

        -Congress has ability to executive check of powers

-Desmond Tutu in response to Senator Rand Paul’s filibuster: how dare you say that US lives are more important than others

-Armed but not lethal drones at Mexico-US border (rubber bullets)

Entesar al Qadhi -From Merab, Yemen

-First drone strike in her area 2002

-Most recent attack during celebration of Eid – 3 schoolboys killed

-Targets are supposed to be AQ but innocent victims are 16-30 years old

-Before US interference, did not know what AQ was

Merab is one of the most resource rich areas, especially oil, but there are no universities

-“If you are against terrorism then you are against drones”

-New US focus in Yemen because government is absent in Yemen


Chris Cole – UK Drone Campaign Network (

-3 nations have used drones: United States, Israel, and United Kingdom

-12 nations have faced drones strikes

-Drones bypass the need for boots on the ground and media scrutiny

-UK carrying out approximately 40% of drone strikes in Afghanistan = about 2 drone strikes per week

Elsa Rassbach – CODEPINK

-Germany has the most drone bases in Europe

-Many political parties, including SDP, agree to an international ban on fully autonomous drones

Dalit Baum – American Friends Service Committee/ Who Profits from the Occupation

-Israel is largest exporter of drones

-Gaza Strip approximately 25 miles long with 1.6 million people (1 million living as refugees)

-Heavily armed bulldozers used in Israel in refugee camps to take down houses, raids

        – One report of man using bulldozer while drunk

-Have begun use of unmanned bulldozers controlled by remote controls, mostly women

        -Heat sensors

        – Said to be used to “reduce harm to human lives” despite exceeding the number of on-the-ground attacks

Faisal bin Ali Jaber

-Brother in law Salim gave lectures on targeted attacks and whether they actually were for AQ but no freedom of speech in Yemen

 -After 22 hours into son’s wedding, 4 drones came down and killed Salim and nephew

        -Before strike, officials came to make sure that Salim was home

        -Great psychological damage in family: lost job and Salim’s mother went into a coma and died

-Described drones as toys in the sky = became accustomed to their presence

-“I am surprised we are fighting AQ…what is the definition of AQ?”

Baraa Shaiban – National Dialogue Conference

-Obama said anyone seeking democracy will find a friend in the United States but actions speak louder than words

-“No one would have thought that president who said he was a friend would authorize Special Forces to kill in secret”

-Tie between drone buzzing and PTSD


Amie Stepanovich – EPIC’s Domestic Surveillance Project

-Drone’s very reason for existing is surveillance

-Camera being developed to see what you are carrying in your bag

        -Electronic stop and frisk

-In 2012, Congress passed law to use drones within the United States by 2015

           -Customs and Borders have highest number of drones

-Last week, posted drone release rules…(not all written)

           -Test sites have privacy policy that must be public

           -Annual review of test sites

           -Updates when necessary

           -All drones in use at test site

           -Problem: there are 6 test sites in total so will have to go to each instead of one head

-There is no law or regulation saying that drones in the US must be unarmed

Joe Nevins – Vassar College

– book is Operation Gatekeeper and Beyond: The War on Illegals

-US spends $18 billion in border security and enforcement

-40,000 border agents in the Senate’s version of the comprehensive immigration reform 2013

-VADER: Vehicle and Dismount Exploitation Radars (at borders)

-There are currently 10 drones total on both Mexico-US, Canada-US borders

-6,000-7,000 bodies have been found at Mexico-US border

-Functions like modern apartheid – militarization and drones at the border separate between privileged and the poor

Daniel Hale – former US soldier

-Former intel analysist 

-“I made an oath to protect the Constitution…when I deployed to Iraq, I realized that we were not there defending it nor did we have a real relationship with it”

-Stark contrast between living in Iraq/being in military and living in New York (military life vs. civilian life)

           -Military extremely conservative

-“We as individuals have a lot of power in dialogue”

Fahima Vorgetts – Afghan Women’s Fund

-Soldiers are leaving Afghanistan but we are beginning strategic relationships with military business = “The war is not over, the war is changing”

-Mainstream media shows drones in positive light (killing AQ) but does not cover immoral side of story

           -“Did we think about the blood on the other side?”

-Bush: 52 drones, Obama: over 400

-We are creating more enemies, more Taliban (growing anti-North American sentiments)

Colonel Morris Davis – former US Air Force officer/

chief prosecutor of Gitmo military commissioners

-Utilized surveillance equipment on drones and took orders via chat

-Tillman was used as a poster boy for the war and recruitment until truth about his death was revealed (friendly fire)

-Of age males = guilty by association


“I prefer to see my actions as civil resistance rather than civil disobedience…we are there to uphold the law” – answer during Sunday workshop

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