I was in the U.S. Army for 29 years and retired as a Colonel. The U.S. military loves to have names for its weapons. Some names are propaganda for what the military wants the public to think is its purpose but isn’t, for example, the Peacekeeper missiles, missiles that were anything but for keeping the peace.
But other names chillingly accurately describe the purpose and effect of weapons. That is the case with the U.S. military’s weaponized unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)—Reaper and Predator, from which one can visualize the terror to the innocent civilians that all too frequently are the victims of these weapons. Those who oppose these weapons systems come up with their own terminology which most of the time more accurately describes them. In the case for the Reaper and Predator UAVs, the term “assassin drones” is the result.
The U.S. military rationale traditionally offered for using drones is that they eliminate the need for “boots on the ground”—whether members of the armed forces or CIA paramilitary personnel—in dangerous environments, thereby preventing loss of U.S. lives. U.S. officials also claim that the intelligence UAVs gather through lengthy surveillance makes their strikes more precise, reducing the number of civilian casualties. Left unsaid, but almost certainly another powerful motivator, is the fact that the use of drones means that no suspected militants would be taken alive, thus avoiding the political and other complications of detention.
Even if these claims are true, however, they do not address the impact of the tactic on U.S. foreign policy. Of broadest concern is the fact that drones allow presidents to punt on questions of war and peace by choosing an option that appears to offer a middle course, but actually has a variety of long-term consequences for U.S. policy, as well as for the communities on the receiving end.
By taking the risk of loss of U.S. personnel out of the picture, Washington policymakers may be tempted to use force to resolve a security dilemma rather than negotiating with the parties involved. Moreover, by their very nature, UAVs may be more likely to provoke retaliation against America than conventional weapons systems. To many in the Middle East and South Asia, drones represent a weakness of the U.S. government and its military, not a strength. Shouldn’t brave warriors fight on the ground, they ask, instead of hiding behind a faceless drone in the sky, operated by a young person in a chair many thousands of miles away?
However, there is dangerous blowback to the U.S. military from the effects of U.S. drones bombing wedding parties or firing on funeral gatherings. In the past five years, more U.S. military in Afghanistan have been killed by young Afghans who are being trained by U.S. military than have been killed by the Taliban or ISIS. If the U.S. military would release their investigations of the reasons why these young men turned their rifles on their American trainers, I feel certain we would learn that they are from the border areas of Afghanistan and members of their families have been killed by U.S. assassin drones.
The U.S. is not the only country that uses assassin drones. Israel is notorious for terrorizing the small area of Gaza that it uses as its testing ground for assassin drones. 24 hours a day, Israel has weaponized drones flying over the open-air prison, 25 miles long and 5 miles wide from which there is no escape due to the Israeli land and sea blockade of the tiny Palestinian enclave.
Seeing the massive destruction of lives in the 29-day Israeli assault on Gaza in 2008 and 2009 was one of many life-changing events for me. The use of “double-tap”, sending missiles from drones to kill the persons who had gathered to help those injured in the first attack, became a signature of Israeli assassin operations, which the U.S. has now added to its inventory in Somalia and Yemen. Israeli drone technology is deeply rooted in the U.S. with the Israeli company Elbit now having contracts with various agencies of the U.S. government for drones, surveillance and crowd control technology.
Like so many of our activists, I have protested U.S. assassin drones at various places in the U.S. and outside the U.S. I have been arrested and very briefly jailed for peaceful, nonviolent actions with creative and dedicated activists with Shut Down Creech at Creech Drone Base, Nevada and Upstate NY Coalition to Stop Drones at Hancock Drone Base, Syracuse, New York, but I have never taken the courageous decision to go to federal prison as a protest against assassin drones like Kathy Kelly and Brian Terrell. I have been a part of protests at Whiteman Air Base, Missouri and Ramstein Air Base, Germany. I have testified on the immorality of weaponized drones at the German Parliament.
To show how low government officials will go to discourage these protests, I have had my monthly Social Security checks stopped because of fraudulent government documents about my arrest for nonviolence protest at Creech Drone base. On March 31, 2016, I, along with seven others, six Veterans for Peace and one Granny Peace Brigade member, was arrested at Creech drone base, Nevada as a part of the semi-annual protest against assassin drones. We spent five hours in the Clark County Jail during which our arrests were processed and then we were released. Our cases of ‘failure to disperse’ when ordered by a police officer were eventually dropped by the Clark County court.
However, in an effort to silence dissent for those of us 62 or older and discourage us from continuing the protests at Creech drone base, someone decided to falsify jail records to show that I was in jail/confinement for more than 30 days and then send the records to the Social Security Administration. Social Security payments are cut off if a recipient is in jail 30 days or longer.
SSA stopped my monthly Social Security check and sent me a letter stating that I must repay back months of payments for four months — and in my case I was to return $4,273.60 of Social Security payments. Of course, I fought back by publicizing the government’s actions and eventually got everything cleared up, but I never found out who was responsible.
All of this to silence the moral outrage of U.S. citizens in opposition to their government’s illegal and immoral killing by assassin drones of innocent civilians around the world.
BUT……We Will NOT Be Silent!
BAN ASSASSIN DRONES!!!!!!
Dissent: Voices of Conscience
Ann Wright is a retired U.S. Army colonel and U.S. State Department diplomat who has been active in anti-war and liberation movements since she resigned from the State Department in 2002 in protest against the U.S. invasion of Iraq.