Repenting for Drone Warfare

 

Charges have been dropped against those of us who have been demonstrating against drone warfare at Beale Air Force Base.  I had been summoned to appear in federal court on March 8 with thirteen others for crossing onto Beale in an act of nonviolent resistance to US drone attacks.  Here is a video of me speaking about the links between the US military and climate change after crossing the line onto the base last December.

Beale is in Northern California, just 45 minutes from my front door.  It is home of the Global Hawk Drone, a surveillance drone that identifies targets for armed Predator and Reaper drones, which maim and kill thousands of civilians, including children, thousands of miles away.  Meanwhile, our “pilots” sit in their air-conditioned computer rooms, in safety.  This is the perfect metaphor for US imperialism today.

How does this look to people around the world?  Drones help terrorists recruit more terrorists, creating an unending cycle of violence.

How does it look to God?  Surely God weeps–for the drone victims and for the drone pilots with PTSD.  “Surely God has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.”

I weep, too, for the children and families and for this country that largely supports drone warfare, in spite of its immorality.  As a follower of the Prince of Peace, I must publicly decry such violence, or stand as complicit myself.

In this season of Lent, I repent for my participation in the system of global domination, from which I benefit as a US citizen.  I repent for the extraordinary harm caused by our drones and other advanced weapons.  I relinquish all claims of privilege and cast my lot with the poor, oppressed, and vulnerable of the earth, as Jesus did.

We’ll be back at Beale on Monday and Tuesday, on March 7 and 8, this time with Bruce Gagnon of the Global Network against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space.  Go to the Occupy Beale Facebook page event for details.

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See other blog postings about actions and trials related to Beale demonstrations

Peace for the World, Healing for the Climate

My dear friends,

Yesterday I was arrested once again at Beale Air Force Base, along with seven others, and charged with trespassing.  This video was filmed after we crossed the line onto the base.  In it I begin to explain the connections between US military policy and climate change.  The letter that we attempted to deliver to the base commander gives a more detailed explanation of our concerns and our reasons for demonstrating.

As many of you know, I have been arrested at Beale several times for protesting against the Global Hawk drones that are operated from Beale and against the U.S. drone warfare program.  Far more civilians than terrorists are killed by U.S. drones, including many children.  Terrorists use anti-drone sentiment to recruit more terrorists, creating an escalating cycle of violence and the rationale for endless war.  There have been regular anti-drone protests at Beale and at drone bases around the country for several years now, and we aren’t going away.  Seven more arrests were made today.

The demonstrations yesterday and today were timed to coincide with the conclusion of the Paris Climate talks.  These past few days there have been “red line actions” in Paris and around the world, demonstrating that our leaders must not cross the many red lines that will lead to climate chaos and that people will continue to demand action for climate justice.

I am a person of faith and a follower of Jesus.  I pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, and I am sure that the divine will is for peace, for justice, and for the flourishing of creation.  I know that the Spirit, called by so many names, is at work in the world even now, in people who haven’t succumbed to the greed, violence, and despair of our times.  I have hope that the world can change, that another world is possible.  But for that to happen, we the people will have to rise up and work together fearlessly, regardless of our spiritual or philosophical beliefs, to make real what is possible.

Rise up.  Live in hope.

Sharon

 

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See other blog postings about actions and trials related to Beale demonstrations

Other blog postings about climate change can be found here.   Order Sharon’s CD– Climate Change:  What Do We Know?  What Can We Do? or download a free MP3 version. 

Letter to Beale Commander

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December 14, 2015

Dear Colonel Douglas J. Lee:

We are here today to demonstrate at Beale because of the links between the US military and the grave threat of climate change.  World leaders who met in Paris have reached a global climate agreement, but it fails to take account of greenhouse gases generated by the military.  The US military is the single largest user of petroleum in the world, emitting a massive amount of greenhouse gases, and is the main enforcer of the global oil economy. Yet the Pentagon has a blanket exemption in all international climate agreements.

A Pentagon report asserts that climate change poses an immediate threat to national security, with increased risks from terrorism, infectious disease, global poverty, and food shortages. It also predicts rising demand for military disaster responses as extreme weather creates more global humanitarian crises.  According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, climate change will soon become the biggest factor driving population displacements.  This, too, creates the potential for humanitarian disaster, population upheaval, and an increase in anti-immigrant hysteria.

In spite of these security risks, the U.S. military is not working to mitigate the release of greenhouses gases.  Instead, it is beefing up its fossil-fuel intensive infrastructure and using drone warfare and other attacks to respond to problems militarily, fueling hate and creating more terrorists.  Violence breeds violence.

We oppose the Global Hawk Drones that are housed here, which provide surveillance that help identify targets for attacks by the US military, including killer drone attacks.  We oppose the Pentagon plan to increase its drone fleet and double its number of drone pilots.  We oppose all offensive US military action, and are especially outraged by the US attack on the Doctors without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan.  We join with people around the world in calling for an impartial investigation on this matter.

With the recent disclosures by new whistleblowers and former drone operators, we know that drone strikes are 1) not as effective as our government claims they are, 2) killing thousands of innocent civilians, 3) creating more enemies than they are killing, and 4) damaging the health & morale of our military personnel.

Colonel Lee, we challenge you and your military and civilian superiors to begin the conversion of all military assets to peacetime use and to spend most of the bloated military budget to develop alternatives to fossil fuels and to work for goodwill and a just peace among all nations and peoples.  The only way to create the will for peaceful solutions to global problems like climate change and terrorism is to simultaneously work for justice and peace. Another world is possible, but waging wars of domination will not get us there.

We are attempting to deliver this letter to you in person.  Since you represent the leadership of the US. Air Force at Beale, we request to meet with you personally to explain our concerns.

In Peace,

Sharon Delgado                                  Mauro Oliviera                        Shirley Osgood

Flora Rodgers                                     Susan Pelican                          Pamela Osgood

Barry Binks                                         Jane Kesselman

 

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See other blog postings about actions and trials related to Beale demonstrations

 

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.”

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