My Statement Before Trial

outside courthouse

Thank you all for being here today to back us up as we go to trial for taking a stand for peace.  We come here from different places.  We have different motivations for being here, different philosophies, different spiritual traditions, but we are united in a common purpose:  to show our government and to show the public that there is strong opposition to U.S. drone warfare.

The government accuses us of breaking a civil law by trespassing onto Beale Air Force Base during an anti-drone protest last October.  I see it differently.  I crossed the line onto federal property to challenge my government’s illegal actions.  I was following a higher Law, the Law of Love.

I am a Christian and an ordained minister, a follower of the Prince of Peace.  In the United Methodist Church, at baptism we promise “to accept the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they may present themselves.”  When I crossed the line onto Beale, I was being faithful to my baptismal vows by resisting the evil, injustice, and oppression of U.S. drone warfare.

Jesus said, “Love your neighbors as yourself.”  U.S. drone strikes have killed thousands of people, many of them civilians, including children, and have injured thousands more.  These people are our neighbors.  They are being killed without trial, judge, or jury, outside of international law.

Jesus said, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Friends who have travelled to rural Pakistan tell about terrorized communities where U.S. drones hover overhead, where people are afraid to gather even for weddings and funerals, where terrified children are kept home from school.  US drones sometimes kill rescue workers by bombing the same target twice, making it difficult for would-be Good Samaritans to rescue victims or alleviate their suffering.

U.S. drones create more terrorists than they kill.  Violence begets violence.  Over seventy-five countries now have drones.  If the United States acts with impunity, other countries will follow our example.  What we do to others, they may in the future do to us, or to our children’s children.

I plead not guilty because I acted out of necessity, to prevent a greater harm.  I charge the U.S. government with violating international law by using drones to kill people in sovereign countries, even countries where we are not at war.  My actions at Beale were in response to these grave harms. Those of us who are U.S. citizens are complicit in our government’s actions.  The U.S. is waging drone warfare with our tax dollars and in our name.  I refuse to go along with the remote-control killing of people half a world away.  Inaction is complicity.  Silence is consent.

I crossed the line at Beale as an act of conscience and of trust in the power of Love to bring about both personal and social transformation.   I’m hopeful that our small efforts here today will be part of a great turning away from the evils of drone warfare and toward policies based on diplomacy, humanitarian concern, peace-building, and respect for international law.  May Peace and Love prevail.

For a sense of the spirit of last October’s action, watch this video from the military’s own website:  Protestors Blockade Beale AFB.

Countdown to Anti-Drone Trial

Shirley Osgood, Janie Kessleman, Sharon Delgado, David and Jan Hartsough, trespassing onto Beale Air Force Base property before their arrest in October, 2012

Today begins the one-week countdown to our trial for trespassing onto federal property at Beale Air Force Base during an anti-drone protest last October. Our pro-bono lawyers are in high gear, working together to find strategies that will deliver us as little jail time as possible (we are all refusing to pay fines) while spreading the word about the harm being done by U.S. drones.  Their job has been made more difficult by the judge’s refusal to allow “the necessity defense,” in which we could argue that we engaged in civil disobedience out of necessity, for the sake of conscience, in order to prevent a greater harm being done by our government and in our name.

Still, we are all in good spirits.  We certainly knew the risks when we crossed the line onto base property, and are willing to face the consequences.  We appreciate all the prayers and support we have received from so many people.  Together with all of you, little by little, we are building a movement strong enough to inspire people to take action for change, to influence public opinion, and ultimately to change government policy and create a more just and peaceful world.

So don’t give up!  Don’t allow yourself to be discouraged or paralyzed by the bad news that is coming at us from every direction, or by how puny our efforts seem.  There is a power at work in the universe that is far greater than even today’s global system of domination, made up of the interlocking network of political, economic, and military institutions of our age.  That power, which brought the universe into being and is the life force of all creatures, is moving through millions and motivating us to rise up, claim our birthright as spiritual beings and moral agents, and take action on behalf of the whole interrelated web of life.  That power is Love.

In my last blog I suggested ways that well-wishers could show their support, not just for the five of us who will be standing trial on Monday, but for all peacemakers and for all who suffer the impacts of U.S. military policy, including drone warfare.  A fellow defendant suggested a few more actions that supporters can take:

  • Signing up on the No Drones listserve to keep abreast of actions around the country;
  • Participating in future demonstrations, perhaps including nonviolent civil disobedience, at Beale or at other bases where drones are based;
  • Participating in a nonviolent training so they are better prepared to do civil disobedience.

We’ll be there in Sacramento at the U.S. District Court, 501 I Street, at 8:30 sharp next Monday morning.  Maybe we’ll see you there.


Go to my previous blog postings on drone warfare for background on this case.  

Support the Beale Anti-Drone Defendants

Support demonstration at the federal courthouse in Sacramento.

Demonstration at the Federal courthouse in Sacramento.

So many people have expressed concern about the upcoming trial related to my civil disobedience action at Beale last October, and have wondered what they can do to show support.  I appreciate the concern, as do my four fellow defendants.  And yes, there are a few actions I can think of that  supporters can take to further our cause.

First, you can join us on the day of the trial, August 12, at the federal courthouse at 501 I Street in Sacramento at 8:30 a.m.  Bring signs and banners or just yourselves.  The Sacramento Bee has given good coverage to this case, and your presence will help to get the word out that there is popular support for an end to U.S. drone attacks and for policies based on diplomacy, peace building, humanitarian concern, and respect for international law.

Second, sign this petition to tell President Barack Obama that we need transparency and accountability for the U.S. drone program.  Better yet, call his office and leave him the same message, or demand an end to drone attacks, at (202) 456-1111.

Third, consider making a donation to a fund to benefit victims of drone attacks through the CODEPINK Peace Delegation to Pakistan and Medical Aid for Drone Survivors Fund.  No amount of money can compensate for a lost limb or a lost loved one, but it can be a symbolic gesture of apology for our government’s actions and of goodwill toward the people.

Finally, pray for us and for all the people who are taking action to stop drone warfare, for the victims of U.S. drone attacks, and for a conversion to peace.  Prayer and action go together in this struggle, because we are up against powerful forces that have institutionalized domination, violence, and war as ongoing public policy.

Thank you all for your words of concern, support, and encouragement.  Whatever the outcome of our trial, I pray that in some small way, with your support, this will be part of a great turning of public opinion against drone warfare and for the harder work of creating a peaceful future.

Read my previous blogs about drone warfare for background and context to this upcoming trial.