Unmaking Drone Warfare, Mary Beth Moore S.C.

Syracuse Peace Conference—Unmasking Drone Warfare

Mary Beth Moore, SC

              The shorthand is “drones”, and the technical name is “unmanned Aerial Vehicles [UAVs]”, but either way they have carried out bombing attacks since 2001, tools in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and now continuing in the so-called “war on terror.”   Drone warfare was the theme of the Syracuse Peace Conference, held in the city of that name from April 27-29th, which drew some 275 peacemakers from around New York State .  The purpose of the conference was to learn the facts, get inspired and move to action to protest drone warfare.  The conference culminated in a rally and solemn procession to Hancock Air force Base just outside the city, one of the sites where human beings carry out remote attacks in six countries.

The conference presenters were uniformly excellent.  Kathy Kelly of Voices for Peace gave an inspiring opening conference, movingly conveying her personal encounter with an anguished Pakistani  mother whose innocent child had been maimed by a drone.  She put a human face on statistics: between 2004 and 2012 the CIA has conducted over 330 drone attacks in Pakistan alone, killing about 3,000 people including 175 children.  Noted author and activist Bruce Gagnon posed a simple logical argument: the deliberately killing another human being in the conduct of war is deemed legal; the deliberate killing of another human being outside the conduct of war is deemed murder.  If the United States government is not at war with Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, how can deliberate killing be justified?   Deborah Sweet of  the nuclear disarmament project “World Can’t Wait” challenged participants to move past their political affiliations to make clearer judgments about the Obama administration’s justification of and secrecy about targeted killings.  (As is public knowledge, President Obama himself gives the final o.k. for targeted drone attacks.)

Among compelling testimonies from several U.S. veterans, retired Colonel Anne Wright stood out.  A career officer who resigned her commission in 2003 over the Iraq war, she urged all to consider the rage engendered by drone attacks.  Sarah Ahmed, a young woman from the Gaza strip affirmed that for victims, all they know of the United States is that it perpetrates drone attacks.

On Sunday, conference participants processed to Hancock Air Force Base.  They reminded U.S. military that, “Drone use violates the US Constitution, Article 6, and International Law, which the U.S. has signed on to. [We] also object to the militarization of the police and the growing domestic use of drones. … drone use globally makes Americans unsafe because of the blow back effect.”  Thirty-one protesters were arrested for trespassing on the Base.

Yet, the conference experience can’t be conveyed without noting the solidarity, hope and commitment among participants.  This is the alternative community we long for.  The local organizers created an atmosphere of welcome, with hot coffee available all day, and sufficient food for breakfast and lunch for all participants.

The message is clear:  we must resist the onslaught of an endless war and its tools, such as drones, if true security and the health of the planet is our goal.  Take action:  go to www.knowdrones.com. Learn more; educate others about drones. Write to President Obama with the message: “Drones are immoral and illegal.  They create rage against the United States wherever they are deployed.  Stop drone warfare.”


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