On January 8, 2013, the “Beale 9” will stand trial in federal court in Sacramento. On October 30 I joined about 100 people for a demonstration at Beale Air Force Base calling for an end to drone warfare. Beale is home to the Global Hawk Drone, a surveillance drone that is used to determine drone targets. After stopping traffic onto the base for four hours, nine of us were arrested for trespassing onto federal property.
I took this action because I am convinced that the use of drones for targeted assassinations is immoral and illegal and that their use threatens us all. Now is the time to stop the new drone arms race in its tracks. This act of nonviolent direct action at Beale was my way of witnessing to my hope that “another world is possible,” a world based not on domination and violence, but on peace, justice, and environmental healing. My “no” of resistance is based on a “yes” of faith.
The U.S. use of drones for extra-judicial killings is immoral and illegal under international law. It assumes that the whole world is a battleground and that the United States has the right to inflict capital punishment without trial on whomever it has put on its “kill list.”
Targeted assassinations by drones is not a clean as many people seem to think. Many innocent people have been killed, including children. In Pakistan, whole communities are paralyzed with fear because of ongoing drone attacks. “Secondary kills,” that is, drone strikes on rescue workers, if eyewitness reports are true, would constitute war crimes.
There are other complications to drone warfare. Drones are sold on the open market. Weapon manufacturers, whose sole purpose is profit, have no loyalty to any country but only to their bottom line. Over fifty countries now have drones. Most are currently used for surveillance, and in fact, many law enforcement departments in U.S. cities are purchasing drones for that purpose. But drones can be equipped with weapons, and many countries already have weaponized drones. With the United States setting the standard and leading the way, we are in danger of a drone arms race without an international legal framework for their use.
The public must become aware of the dangers of this deadly program. We must rise up in resistance and demand that the United States propose, sign, and ratify an international treaty on drones. Clearly, this is a tall order, especially given that the United States has not even signed the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention. Such an outcome can only take place if there is widespread public awakening to the multiple dangers facing us as a species, and spiritual renewal motivating us to work together for global transformation. This will entail a rising up of people willing to work for a peoples’ democracy rather than acquiescing to the current system of global corporate rule.
In the New Year, those of us who were arrested at Beale will stand trial, or rather, put drones on trial. I’m grateful to have this opportunity to witness to my conviction that another world truly is possible.