U.S.: Federal Prison Sentence Begins for Anti-Drone Activist
an article by Medea Benjamin in Peace News
[Note: The author, Medea Benjamin, is the co-founder of
the peace group CODEPINK and the human rights group
Global Exchange. She is the author of Drone Warfare:
Killing by Remote Control.]
click on photo to enlarge
On January 23, Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator of Voices for
Creative Nonviolence, a campaign to end U.S. military and
economic warfare, will begin a three-month jail sentence in
federal prison for a protest against drones (also known as
“unmanned aerial vehicles”) at Whiteman Air Force Base in
Missouri. I had a chance to interview her before she had to
turn herself in.
Medea: Can you just say why you have been
particularly moved to take action against drone strikes?
Kathy: I think 21st-century militarism is very
frightening when you combine the military’s Joint Special
Operations Forces with drone and air strike capabilities.
The military doesn’t need sprawling bases anymore
because they can use these new technologies to control
populations and instill tremendous fear. But the use of
drones creates resentment and antagonism, and continues
to kill civilians.
Wars have been killing civilians for a long time, but with the
help of drones, 90 percent of the people killed in wars
these days are civilians. The British organization Reprieve
reports that for every one person who is selected as a
target for assassination by drones, 28 civilians are killed.
The weaponized drones are operated here in the United
States in Air National Guard bases and Air Force bases,
and with the press of a button they are killing people
thousands of miles away in places like Afghanistan. Many
people are enamored with being able to send an unmanned
aerial vehicle to kill people in another country without a
soldier in this country being harmed. But we find that the
people operating these drones are experiencing trauma and
stress just like soldiers in war zones.
I’m also very worried about drone proliferation, with other
countries acquiring these weapons systems. In 1945, only
one country possessed a nuclear weapon, and look at the
world now. I think the same thing is going to happen with
I also think that with the activist focus on drones, we can
have tangible successes. We have a good possibility of
persuading the public that this is a wrongful way to move
ahead. It violates international law and makes other people
near the bases here in the United States vulnerable as
We’ve already seen considerable progress on this issue.
The bases that were getting the drones systems, like the
Air National Guard Base in Battle Creek, Michigan, used to
be so proud they were popping champagne. Now the
commanders at the Battle Creek base, where the Guard is
being trained to operate weaponized drones, are reluctant
to talk about the drone program.
(This article is continued in the discussionboard)
There is no question yet associated with this article.
* * * * *
LATEST READER COMMENT:
(The following is continued from the main article listed above.)
Medea: Can you tell us about Whiteman Air Force Base and what you did that resulted in this three-month sentence?
Kathy: A squadron at Whiteman, which is in Knob Noster, Missouri, operates weaponized drones over Afghanistan, which has been an epicenter of drone warfare. Whiteman Air Force Base won’t disclose information about the results of these drone strikes, but we, as American citizens, should have the right to know what is being done in our name.
I have spent a lot of time in Afghanistan, living with young people who have been victimized by our drones, young people who fled to Kabul and are too frightened to go back home to visit their own relatives, young people who see a future filled with prolonged and agonizing warfare.
We wanted to bring their grievances to the commander at Whiteman. So I crossed a line onto the base. A symbolic action for people in Afghanistan is breaking bread together, so I carried a loaf of bread and a letter to the commander asking how many people were killed by Whiteman Air Force Base on that day.
I took one or two steps over a line. Then I was arrested.
When I went to trial, the military prosecutor told the judge, “Your Honor, Ms. Kelly is in grave need of rehabilitation.” But I think it’s our policy that’s in grave need of rehabilitation. We’ve already spent $1 trillion on warfare in Afghanistan and will be spending another $120 billion. The Pentagon wants $57 billion for this year alone. . ...more.