Posts Tagged drones
10 Years of War – Protesting Drones Made by General Atomics
An email exchange only last week, based on research he had done, with Malachy Kilbride, brought news that he had found a lobbying office for General Atomics right around the corner from the White House. General Atomics is a manufacturer of parts for drones. Given the 10th anniversary of the US occupation of Afghanistan, and the mobilization of an occupation/encampment which began on October 6, at Freedom Plaza in Washington, we quickly decided to protest General Atomics.
3 1/5 scale models of Reaper drones, produced by Nick Mottern of Consumer for Peace, and a group of upstate NY activists. (There are 9 more drone models in the works. Hung on the drones were signs such as “assassination vehicle.”
3 banners, including a 30 foot long one saying “DRONES: making enemies faster than we can kill them.”
Symbolic representations of babies wrapped in shrouds, carried by a dozen protesters.
Assorted antiwar signs, symbols, drums, cameras, voices, and stories.
About 250 people aged 16-80.
Based on a couple of announcements and emails, we didn’t know who would march beyond supporters of Code Pink, Upstate (NY) Drone Action and World Can’t Wait. But as we gathered in the middle of Freedom Plaza, dozens materialized, and soon we took off on a march with over 200. http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/17729809
The original idea was to have a silent march – but we were going right by the White House. How could we be silent? On the spot we developed a chant: “When drones fly, children die! Stop the wars NOW!”
By the time we got in front of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, we paused, partly by plan, and partly because again, we had to. Here lives the Commander in Chief who sent more troops than the Bush regime ever did to Afghanistan, and who has used drones 8 times as much as Bush did, spreading the drone war to Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and even recently, Iraq. I had to tell those gathered that the slang term used by pilots of the unmanned drones — who sit at video monitors half way across the globe — for their targets, is “squirters.”
We went on to General Atomics, in a drab office building on Pennsylvania Avenue. A few people looked out the window as we marched up – we were loud. Spontaneously, dozens of people went up to the door of the building, and went in. Some held the doors open, and fairly soon, they were ejected, roughly by security guards. DC police blocked the doors, but too late, we had taken the steps. We held a one hour rally on the steps, spilling across the sidewalk and into the street. David Swanson, Malacky Kilbride, sisters from Code Pink who have protested drones at Creech Air Force Base and in upstate New York, Greg from Wisconsin, a Veteran for Peace, Ray McGovern and Ann Wright, spoke from the steps along with me.
Afterwards, I heard from quite a few people who stopped me to say that they learned much along the way about the Obama administration’s expansion of drone warfare, and more detail about how the drones are used. I could see people in the crowd, including those who were holding the “shrouded babies,” crying. I explained how in January 2009, during Operation Cast Lead, the Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, I had seen a photo of a large extended Palestinian family, standing around 3 tiny shrouded bodies. Whatever the Obama administration claims — including the ridiculous assertion that “not one civilian” was killed this year by one of their drones — we know that civilians are being killed, because the Afghans, the Pakistanis, Yemenis and Somalians tell us.
While several people were suggest to me, as the impromptu MC, that we get someone to speak on the “economic” issues, a fellow from Madison came up to speak, and I thought, being from Wisconsin, he’d talk about the repression on unions, and other issues that brought people to surround the state capitol this winter. But Greg spoke about how his wife and other relatives who are teachers are “sick” of having their students go off into the military because they have no jobs and no future. What an outrageous situation in this country where the only steady work people can get is as part of an occupying army!
The building’s front door was shut down for an hour. We began to get peace signs flashed to the crowd from people inside. Probably they didn’t work at General Atomics, but we made sure everyone inside heard our chant: STOP MAKING DRONES!
See videos of the rally. http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/17731070 http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/17731348
When Barack Obama announced in early 2010 that he had put Anwar al-Awlaki on his hit list, I heard from people for whom the announcement was a breaking point in their support for the president.
World Can’t Wait published a statement titled Crimes Are Crimes, No Matter Who Does Them. It said
In some respects, this is worse than Bush. First, because Obama has claimed the right to assassinate American citizens whom he suspects of “terrorism,” merely on the grounds of his own suspicion or that of the CIA, something Bush never claimed publicly.
The ad got significant support in The New York Review of Books, and Rolling Stone. It was much more controversial when it went into The New York Times, on the anniversary of Bush’s bombing and occupation of Afghanistan, October 6, 2010. That paper, so far, has not published its opinion on the Obama administration’s killing of al-Awlaki and another American, on September 30, in an secret operation in Yemen, so we may assume it joins in supporting this crime by our government.
On October 2, they published an opinion by Jack Goldsmith, who you’ll remember as a lawyer for the Bush regime tainted by the torture scandal. Titled A Just Act of War, Goldsmith’s piece praises Obama’s aggression, because the Office of Legal Counsel came up with opinions justifying the killing by unmanned drone of al-Awlaki and another American citizen. For Goldsmith “what due process requires depends on context,” so it’s all good.
The assassination is hypocritical because America routinely criticizes (and justifiably so) such extrajudicial assassinations when they occur at the hands of another government.
The Bush-loving Washington Times, in a piece by Rowan Scarborough, whines that Al-Awlaki would have been difficult to try as a civilian. So just kill him.
“I think it’s pretty easy to understand why they didn’t take him alive. Would you want to deal with the hassle of trying to put him on trial, an American citizen that has gotten so much press for being the target of a CIA kill order? That would be a nightmare. The ACLU would be crawling all over the Justice Department for due process in an American court,” said a former military intelligence officer who worked with special operations troops to hunt down high-value terrorism targets.
Over at the more “liberal” Washington Post, John Bellinger III settles for the administrations’ self-enforcing opinion:
the Justice Department reportedly prepared an opinion concluding that his killing would comply with domestic and international law. This is likely to be considered sufficient due process under U.S. constitutional standards.
Leaving aside this monstrous immorality — no government should be allowed to kill with impunity, much less from a distance, in secret, off a battlefield — there may be a price the U.S. pays for such actions. Even Jack Goldsmith acknowledges
Such caution, however, does not guarantee legitimacy at home or abroad. There are relatively few complaints in American society about the drone program, but drones are becoming increasingly controversial outside the United States on the ground that they violate international law.
The best piece on what line has been crossed here is Glenn Greenwald’s Friday piece in Salon. See The due-process-free assassination of U.S. citizens is now reality. Today, he says
This was absolutely the heart and soul of the Bush War on Terror: the President can do whatever he wants to anyone he wants — with no oversight, due process, or checks — because we’re at War and these are Bad Terrorists (says the President, unilaterally and in secret).
Don’t want a world like this? Protest on October 6, 7, 8, and keep at it. Ten years is way too long for the richest country to be destroying one of the poorest on the planet, Afghanistan.
October2011.org at Freedom Plaza. I’ll be there. Join us!
The drone, which will be unveiled later today, will be operated out of the Antelope Valley by the military contractor General Atomics. The drones will fly above the border region with advancing electronic tracking equipment looking for illegal immigrants crossing into California.
According to the San Diego-based company, the drones will transmit information to U.S. authorities on human smuggles as well drug smuggling. Such drones are already used on the border of Texas and Arizona. Border Patrol officials told SignOn San Diego that the drone would initially be used to monitor ocean area, which has been used by human smugglers.