Last week, marking the 17th anniversary of the Afghan War, I joined my friends and colleagues at Creech Air Force Base at Indian Springs, Nevada, home of the Predator (formerly Reaper) Drones to protest extra judicial killings in all the countries drones operate: including Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Mali, Syria, and Somalia, We were a varied crew from places as far distant as Iowa, Salt Lake, Reno, Indiana, Colorado, New Jersey, Hawaii, and Mexico, including professors of anthropology and linguistics, a Menonite activist who walks Palestinian children safely to school past the Israeli checkpoints two months a year, and a former U.S. diplomat and participant in the Gaza flotilla delivering a boat load of medicines intended for Gaza but detained till further notice by the Israeli government. Our week of protest was organized by Code Pink, in collaboration with Veterans for Peace, Voices for Creative Nonviolence and local groups. Some of us protest in the hope that eventually we will shut down Creech and the military machine that now consumes over 62% of the national budget to the detriment of infrastructure maintenance, environment, health, welfare, and education, which receive percentages in the meager single digits. Some of us think we cannot change a waroholic government, but we don’t want that government to change us. We are a motley but cheerful crew of Code Pink organizers as our goofy picture shows.
(For Creech religious practices see: https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=7218921764613108785#editor/target=post;postID=3754103717847685258;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=41;src=postname)
Valiantly we displayed our banners (Kill by Drone, Reap the Whirlwind) from 6 to 9 AM and from 3 to 5 PM as hundreds of cars streamed past us entering and leaving the base, most operated by their single drivers hailing from 70 miles away in Las Vegas. We sustained seven arrests, one of them unintended because no warning was given, one public stripping of a female organizer, and jail holds lasting in excess of 30 hours in the Clark County Detention Center, one of the worst jails in the United States. Said one detainee: “Not a place for human beings., A place for slaves.” And while children are killed, the drones drone on from sun up to sunset, and we protest in a barren landscape under its vast skies and towering thunderheads in a weather system building up from storms as far south as Baja, with gale force winds, and rain, lightning and thunder in the desert.
The U.S. drone program dates from the events of 9/11, growing exponentially by 2018 with drone bases scattered as far as Niger and Chad. Its rationale was to prevent our “brave young men and women” from the inconveniences of combat, in favor of shedding blood other than theirs, a system which has proved to have unfortunate consequences: it facilitates extra judicial killings, without trial judge or jury, it destroys societies unable any longer to conduct weddings and funerals out of danger, or to shop, go to school, attend evening prayer, herd goats, or farm; for every “terrorist” it takes out, statistics show that it spills the blood of innocent civilians, many of them children; it creates more enemy-terrorists than it is designed to kill, and perhaps worst of all: its pilots still suffer from PTSD.
While we were at Creech, we entertained the company of Ray McGovern, former intelligence analyst for the CIA in the good old days before spooks scurried under its umbrella, corrupting an organization by inherent conflict of interest, namely in its tendency now “fixing” the intelligence to justify military action. Among other things, he brought to our attention an article uncensored by the New York Times of Sept. 6, 2018, in which Jodi Rudoren quotes Nathan Thrall, a Jerusalem-based analyst for the International Crisis Group, quoting him as saying “The perpetuation of the [Syrian] conflict is absolutely serving Israel’s interest,” because destabilization of the middle East countries surrounding Israel keeps their threat to manageable levels. Drone warfare is encouraged by Israel with the help of the United States acting as its enforcer state.
But a third factor keeping the skids of dronewar greased is that of profit for such corporations as the two leading drone manufacturers, Northrup Grumman, maker of the Global Hawk with a flight time of 32 hours, and a unit cost of $131.4 million, and General Atomics, a privately held corporation, and maker of the Predator, now rebranded as Reaper drone, with a stay in the air capability of 14 hours, at a unit cost of $16.9 million. Figures for the privately held company are hard to establish, but Northrup Grumman showed $22.8 billion in sales in 2018. Basking in an income tax rate of just 19.5 %, its profits for Q2 of 2018 stand at $7.l billion. As George Bush famously advised President Kirchner of Argentina, when that country was on the verge of economic collapse. “War is good for business.”
Yet a fourth irrationalization for the use of drones applies, such that with the exception of Germany in World War II, the United States’ preferred enemies are always people of color, especially people of color whose territories and resources it covets.
The chief dysfunction guiding the U.S. military/industrial/prison complex is the racism it publicly displays with the election of its current administration by a huge proportion of its voters.
Meantime, we occupy the highway outside Creech AFB, wondering how many casualties, how many prosthetic arms and legs the drone whirlwind may reap during the scant hours we maintain our vigil, banners aloft, (17 years in Afghanistan. Enough!) and the ingeniously constructed stanchions and ballast holding them against the occasionally
hurricane force winds that compete with them, wonderstruck at the immense skies surrounding us, the swales of sunlight radiating between menacing thunderheads, breakthrough sunlight firing the surrounding mountains in bright colors, and the endless stretch of desert, all reminders that this Earth is an island, one of millions of similar islands marking their trajectories throughout the universe, some of them perhaps peopled by more peaceful and intelligent life than ours.
Submit your comments to the National Park Service why you oppose charging fees for protests, making scheduling impossible and restricting White House sidewalks.
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