This is the talk I gave in Madison two weeks ago at the Veterans for Peace Memorial Day Commemoration:
I am so glad to be here in Madison, and to appreciate what Madison has brought us, including the 1967 Dow Chemical protests against Napalm, and the 2011 uprising against Walker. The Veterans for Peace chapter in Madison is so active. I saw many of you last week in Chicago, protesting US/NATO war crimes. Todd Dennis and others did an inspiring action last Sunday by throwing their medals, won in the illegitimate, unjust, immoral US wars on Afghanistan and Iraq, back at the NATO Summit. I am proud of Iraq Veterans Against the War for the content of their message, and for the way many of them spoke of the damage to the people of those countries.
After almost 11 years of US war on Afghanistan, I’ve had people say to me recently, “at least President Obama is ending that war.” Of course, he isn’t doing any such thing. It was Obama who vastly expanded the war on Afghanistan in 2009 to 150,000 troops. It’s the US/NATO forces under which the “surge” brought about the biggest loss of Afghan civilian life of the war, during the last year. It’s Obama and Afghan President Karzai who just signed an agreement to keep US forces in Afghanistan until 2024, or another 12 years at least.
This was the war that had to be fought to “save” the Afghan people, according to the Bush regime. In 2001, Afghanistan was the second most dangerous country on the globe for a woman to give birth. In 2011, it was the MOST dangerous country for a woman to give birth – it had the highest maternal mortality rate in the world. And this past winter brought reports of dozens of children under 5 freezing to death in coalition-sponsored refugee camps, while the U.S. has sent tens of billions of dollars to fund the occupation.
Out of this comes the U.S. drone war, now fully directed and justified by the Obama administration. Since 2009, Obama has increased the use of unmanned aerial vehicles – drones – by 8 times more than the Bush administration in Pakistan. Drones are now fully a part of the US war-fighting plan, so much so that the US Air Force is now training more pilots of un-manned vehicles than of fighter-bomber planes. These pilots are based around the world, and within the US, controlling the surveillance and armed drones at 18” from the action on their screens. Of the two US drone programs, the one run by the CIA is probably the larger – the budget is secret – and employs civilian pilots.
The argument from The Pentagon is that drones can “surgically target” insurgents. You have people in the Obama Justice Department who criticized George Bush for doing what they now defend Obama for doing. In fact, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which tracks US drone strikes in Pakistan, has found that at least 175 children have been killed, and hundreds of people not involved with Al Qaeda or any local insurgent group. In fact, the U.S. military defines people as insurgents merely by the fact that they’ve been killed in a drone strike. Most alarmingly, there are repeated and growing examples of strikes coming in series, killing groups of rescuers and mourners. There is no hiding from the drones; they have sophisticated surveillance technology, including heat sensors that can see through walls. Buildings and bodies are obliterated.
So that’s what the US drone war is. But, as terrible as the use of drones is, it doesn’t change anything about US wars of empire. They are still illegitimate, immoral, unjust. And they are most damaging to the people they target; secondarily, they have mostly destroyed the lives of the one million U.S. military who have been used to fight them. The U.S. drone wars — now in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and they used drones in Libya – are the newest technological development in the United States effort to spread an unchallengeable empire, no matter who the president is.
The problem for those of us trying to end these wars is that too many people living in this country go along with these crimes carried out in our name, thinking that their interests are the same as those in power. World Can’t Wait says, “Humanity and the Planet Come First – Stop the Crimes of Our Government.” We say this in recognition of the damage causes by these now endless wars, the system of indefinite detention that is part of the wars, and in recognition that American lives are not more important than other lives.
Join us in working to end the crimes of our government, and in a sending a message to the people of the world that there are people here who say, NO, not in our name!