Goodkill… Or Not

Sharon with Janie at Beale AFB

Memorial Day seems a fitting time to review the movie Goodkill,” now playing at the Magic Theater in Nevada City.  The movie, based on actual events, portrays a morally-conflicted and psychologically-tormented operator of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or “drones”), played by Ethan Hawke.

Even though the plot includes some obvious Hollywood enhancements, it presents some basic facts about drone warfare, facts that are little known to the US public.  For instance, drone operators accidentally kill civilians, but sometimes see that civilians (including children) are present and proceed (or are ordered to proceed) anyway.  “Signature strikes” do not target individually-recognized terrorists, but groups that fit a particular profile.  A “double tap” means that after a drone attack, a second drone targets rescue workers or people attending the funeral of victims from the first attack.

The movie allows the viewer to enter into the discordant life of a drone “pilot”—wearing your flight suit even though you’re not going to fly, entering the cramped but air-conditioned “cockpit,” holding joysticks and looking at computer monitors, endlessly watching people thousands of miles away, being given the order to strike a particular target whether you think it’s right or not, calling “goodkill” when a target is obliterated, stepping out after a shift into the sunlight and driving home to your family, not being able to talk about it without breaking security clearance, silently processing what you have done.

Several drone pilots in the movie clearly believe that they are “protecting American lives” and congratulate each other when they are successful in their targeted killings.  The commander, played by Bruce Greenwood, struggles with the morality of some of the killings, but articulates the official view.  He says to the trainees:  “Do any of you think that if we stop killing them, they’ll stop killing us?  No way.  That’s not going to happen.  So we can’t stop.”  There is one lone voice of conscience, a female drone pilot, asking questions throughout:  “So we can never stop?”  “Did we just commit a war crime?”  “They are 7,000 miles away.  What immanent threat could they pose?” She also states the obvious—that we are creating more terrorists through drone attacks.

The Ethan Hawke character brings to life the studies showing that  drone operators suffer from stress disorders as much as those in combat do.  On this day of remembrance, let us resolve to do everything in our power to end the nightmare of war for military personnel, civilians, and the earth itself.  “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”

Follow Sharon’s blog by clicking the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right or by “liking” the Shaking the Gates of Hell Facebook page.

Read Sharon’s previous blogs on drone warfare here

From Beale to Baltimore:  No Justice, No Peace

Beale April

On Tuesday sixteen of us were arrested as we demonstrated against drone warfare at Beale Air Force Base, where pilots at computer stations guide Global Hawk Drones in identifying targets for Predator and Reaper “killer drones.”  Advanced robotic long distance killing machines are not only cruel, unethical, and illegal; they are a waste of the precious lives of our brothers and sisters in other lands and a waste of tax dollars that could be used to create better lives here and goodwill around the world.

Before crossing the line onto base property, we stood holding panels with drawings of children killed by U.S. drones, while someone read aloud the names and ages of some of the hundreds of children whose lives have been cut short.  As we called to mind each child by repeating their names and ages, many of us were in tears.  We were also mindful of the bereaved families and communities, including Baltimore and Ferguson, where black and brown men are so often abused and killed while in police custody.  The domination and violence of our military, police, and prison systems will never bring peace.  Instead, they contribute to an ongoing cycle of violence that is spinning out of control.

Kathy Kelly and Brian Terrell, co-coordinators of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, joined us for this action.  They have both had recent, first-hand experience with the injustices of the prison system.  Nobel Peace Prize nominee Kathy Kelly was released just days earlier after spending three months in federal prison for an anti-drone action at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.  Peace activist Brian Terrell recently spent six months in prison for nonviolent action against drone warfare.

As we crossed the line and were arrested on Tuesday, we delivered a letter addressed to the Base Commander, which said in part:  “Our purpose in delivering this letter is to urge you and other military and civilian leaders to end your participation in the U.S. drone warfare program and begin to work for peace. Drones have become the preferred weapons to conduct war…but these drone strikes have led to the death of hundreds of innocent civilians, including countries where we are not at war, such as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.” After being arrested, we were all cited for trespassing and released.

I believe that the ongoing anti-drone protests at Beale and at other Air Force bases around the country are helping to touch people’s consciences about the cruel immorality of drone warfare.  Just a few days ago, the Sacramento Bee Editorial Board wrote Deeply Flawed Drone War Takes More Innocent Victims, a strong critique of the U.S. drone program.

This was a touching and tearful ritual, undertaken in solidarity with the children and families who live their lives in terror of the “killer drones” hovering above.  It was also a joyful celebration of nonviolent resistance to militarism, economic exploitation, and hardness of heart. We cannot dehumanize “others” and make them expendable, not in Pakistan or Yemen, not in Iraq or Afghanistan, not in Guantanamo or in U.S. prisons, not in Baltimore or Ferguson.

No one is expendable.  All lives matter.

No justice, no peace.

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Follow Sharon’s blog by clicking the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right or by “liking” the Shaking the Gates of Hell Facebook page.

Find updates about various actions at Earth Justice Ministries Facebook page.  Stay current with Beale activities at the Occupy Beale AFB Facebook Page.

 

Videos of Ash Wednesday at Beale

Arrested at Beale on Ash Wednesday

Arrested at Beale on Ash Wednesday

On Wednesday, February 18, we held an Ash Wednesday service at the front gates of Beale Air Force Base.  Beale is home of the Global Hawk surveillance drone, which identifies targets for “killer drones” like the Predator and Reaper.

I led the service, together with The Rev. Elizabeth Griswold, pastor of Parkside Community Church (United Church of Christ) in Sacramento;  The Rev. Timothy Leighton, United Church of Christ pastor and Campus Minister at UC Davis, Rev. Dave Bunje, retired United Methodist pastor of Nevada City, California, Marcus Page-Collange from the Catholic Worker Farm in Calaveras County, and The Rev. Dr. Jerry Pedersen, a retired Lutheran pastor from Sacramento, a member of Veterans for Peace and former U.S. Marine.  The service included an acknowledgement of our dependence on God, our interrelatedness with people of all spiritual traditions, and our interdependence with the whole web of life.  It also included prayers of repentance, the use of ashes to represent mortality and repentance, and Holy Communion.

After the service, six participants crossed the line onto base property, carrying an open letter to the base commander and sprinkling ashes representing the ashes of children killed by US drones.  We were held for a short time, cited with trespassing charges, and released.

The short videos below can give you a sense of the service and the nonviolent action following the service, including the loud sounds of the U2 spy planes taking off.  Peace to all during this holy season of Lent.

Ash Wednesday at Beale-Marcus and Tim

Ash Wednesday at Beale-Sharon

Ash Wednesday at Beale-Dave

Ash Wednesday at Beale-Jerry

Ash Wednesday at Beale-Elizabeth

Ash Wednesday at Beale-Crossing the Line

 Read the story of these events on the Nuclear Resister website.

Follow Sharon’s blog by clicking the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right or by “liking” theS  haking the Gates of Hell Facebook page.  Other blog postings about actions and trials related to Beale demonstrations can be found here.   Stay up to date about ongoing Beale protests at the Occupy Beale AFB website or Occupy Beale Facebook Page.

 

Dust in the Wind

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This blog summarizes Sharon Delgado’s words at the Ash Wednesday service at the front gates of Beale Air Force Base, on February 18, 2015.  Go to Videos of Ash Wednesday at Beale to see several brief videos of the day’s events.

The focus of Ash Wednesday is mortality and repentance—two primary aspects of faith.  It is the first day of the season of Lent, which allows us to journey with Jesus and to identify with him as he faces death at the hands of the Ruling Powers of this world.  This day and this season is a reminder of these things.  “Remember, O mortal, that you are dust, and to dust you will return.”

We sang “Dust in the Wind” at the beginning of the Ash Wednesday service here at Beale today.  The song is a reminder that life is short, limited, finite, and that we are mortal interconnected with all other forms of life.  Life is precious, and this day reminds us to live and love as if this day is our last.

Sometimes we forget.  We humans may think that we have constructed a “world” on top of the world, that the institutions and systems that we have set up are permanent and all-powerful, but they aren’t.  As Chief Seattle said, “What befalls the earth befalls the children of the earth.”  Or as other have said, “Earth bats last.”

We U.S. Americans may think that our nation will dominate the world forever, but it will not.  Even with all its bombs and drones, today’s global Empire, like all Empires, will fall.  It already contains the seeds of its own destruction.  Everything is dust in the wind.

Repentance is another Ash Wednesday theme.  People in ancient times humbled themselves to repent in dust and ashes.   Today, we repent for harm that we have caused personally.  We also repent for harm caused by the society and nation in which we live, and we call our society and nation to repentance as well.  Today especially, here at Beale, we focus on drone warfare. Global Hawk Drones are operated here, identifying targets for armed Predator and Reaper drones.  Drones are killing people, including innocent civilians and children.  Their lives are precious, too.

Near his final days, when Jesus was heading toward Jerusalem, he stopped and wept over the city, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known the things that make for peace.  But now they are hid from you eyes.”  He then prophesied that disaster would come upon them and the children within them if they did not turn around.  Why?  “Because,” he said, “you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.”

From there he went down into Jerusalem and immediately entered the Temple, driving out the money changers, symbolically striking directly at the heart of the economic/political/social/religious system of his day.  No wonder that within days he was put to death.

But that is not the end of the story.  The good news is that that same Spirit is with us still, called by so many names.  The Spirit that caused Jesus to weep over Jerusalem, the Spirit that moved him to take action for justice, the Spirit that motivated him to give himself in love… that Spirit inspires and animates us even today.  We do recognize the time of our visitation from God.  God is right here with us.

Everything mortal, finite, constructed by human hands is dust in the wind.  Everything passes.  Love remains.

 

 Read the story of these events on the Nuclear Resister website.

Follow Sharon’s blog by clicking the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right or by “liking” the Shaking the Gates of Hell Facebook page.  Other blog postings about actions and trials related to Beale demonstrations can be found here.   Stay up to date about ongoing Beale protests at the Occupy Beale AFB website or Occupy Beale Facebook Page.

 

Kathy Kelly—Serving Time

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Kathy and Georgia arrested at Whiteman AFB

My friend Kathy Kelly is now behind bars, in prison in Lexington, Kentucky.  Kathy, an internationally recognized peace activist, is serving a three-month prison term for crossing the line onto Whiteman Air Force Base property.  She and Georgia Walker were attempting to deliver a loaf of bread and a letter to the base commander, asking him to stop his troops from piloting lethal drone flights over Afghanistan from within the base.

Last Spring, on April 18, 2014, Kathy was with us at Beale Air Force Base on Good Friday.  She spoke during the prayer service and joined as thirteen of us crossed the line onto base property in a nonviolent direct action against drone warfare.  Those of us who stepped over the line were not only protesting against remote control killing but were taking a stand for justice, compassion, and peace.  On Good Friday we grieve for the death of Jesus and countless others through the ages, but also put our hope in resurrection.

The arrests on Good Friday arrests brought the total number of people arrested in March and April to 32.  Charges against all of us were subsequently dropped.

Demonstrations against drones and nonviolent actions and arrests continue at drone sites around the country, including Beale.  I believe that these actions at drone bases around the country are raising awareness of the tragic killing of innocents by remote control.  Although being arrested at the gates of Beale seems to be a low-risk action now, it could change at any time.

Still, perhaps you will find it in your heart to join us, as a participant or as a supporter of peace.   The next time we gather at Beale will be on February 18, Ash Wednesday.  Find out more or join the event at the Earth Justice Ministries Facebook page.  The plans are similar to last year’s Ash Wednesday service and nonviolent action at Beale.

We are also planning to host Kathy Kelly here in Nevada County when she is released from prison.  We might even go with her again to Beale.  We do know one thing:  she won’t stop demonstrating for peace and neither will we.  Jesus calls us to be peacemakers, and that’s just what we intend to be.

 

See the Democracy Now interview of Kathy Kelly about going to prison.  Read Kathy’s recent article, My Future in Prison, where she presents her insights about the connection between the drone killings across Central Asia and the Middle East and the “compulsively vengeful and diseased criminal justice system” here at home.  She points out the importance of supporting the Black Lives Matter protests and the March 4-6 protests to Shut Down Creech Air Force Base.  

Follow Sharon’s blog by clicking the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right or by “liking” the Shaking the Gates of Hell Facebook page.  Read Sharon’s blog Retained with Kathy Kelly at Beale on Good Friday.   Other blog postings about actions and trials related to Beale demonstrations can be found here.   Stay up to date about ongoing Beale protests at the Occupy Beale AFB website or Occupy Beale Facebook Page.