Days of Action against Drones

By MICHAEL SCHREIBER

April saw a coordinated series of protests against the Obama administration’s steadily escalating drone-warfare campaign. The National Days of Action Against Drones was endorsed by a number of U.S. groups, including United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC), No Drones Network, Code Pink, the American Friends Service Committee, and ANSWER. Thousands of people in U.S. cities from New York to Seattle to Honolulu participated in the protests, while other protest actions took place in Europe and in Pakistan and Yemen.

The latter two countries are frequent targets of CIA drone attacks. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 316 confirmed drone strikes have taken place in Pakistan since Obama was elected president in 2008, resulting in from 2541 to over 3500 deaths. During the same period, there have been 44 to 54 confirmed U.S. drone strikes in Yemen, with from 232 to 333 reported dead. A June 2011 report to Congress indicated that the great majority of people killed by drone strikes (as much as 98 percent!) were civilians.

Drones allow the military to easily cross borders and carry out attacks and extra-judicial assassinations without the necessity of training and mobilizing troops, risking U.S. casualties, or even declaring war. Their use has allowed the Obama White House to pretend to disengage from the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan while vigorously stepping up its aggression in Africa, Southern Asia, and elsewhere.

The Pentagon has some 7500 drones in its arsenal, and the U.S. Air Force uses the mechanized “hunter-killers” to fly at least 40 round-the-clock patrols every day. The U.S. has established drone-launching installations throughout the oil and mineral-rich region of Northern Africa—including in Libya, Somalia, Ethiopia, and most recently in Niger—and around the Indian Ocean and Southern Asia.

On April 29, several dozen protested in front of the U.S. embassy in Yemen. According to The New York Times (May 2), civilian deaths caused by the attacks have bred increasing local resentment: “The drone program is terrorizing our people,” the embassy protesters wrote in an open letter to Obama. “One never knows where the next drone will strike or how many innocent victims will die.”

On April 27-28, some 600 antiwar protesters marched and rallied outside the Lincolnshire air base in England. British drone flights in Afghanistan are controlled from the base. The protest took place as the British government admitted that the Royal Air Force has carried out over 2000 missions using “borrowed” U.S. armed drones. Also, British personnel “embedded” with the U.S. Air Force employed drones in the recent wars in Libya and Iraq.

In the United States, rallies, picket lines, and vigils against drones continued throughout the month in over 50 cities and towns.

San Diego, which carries the dubious distinction of being the drone production capital of the world, saw a couple of hundred activists from throughout the Western region take part in four days of protests in early April outside the drone-manufacturing facilities of General Atomics and Northrop Grumman, as well as at other locations. The San Diego activities drew attention to the fact that drones are being used along the increasingly militarized U.S.-Mexico border, as well as for warfare abroad.

Several hundred, including a contingent of people from Africa who are temporarily resident in the U.S., rallied in Washington, D.C., on April 13 in an anti-drone action sponsored by ANSWER and endorsed by many other organizations, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). On April 29, the Anti-war Committee of Chicago sponsored an anti-drone picket line outside the stockholders’ meeting of the Boeing aircraft corporation, which was being held at the Field Museum.

The drone command base at Hancock Field, near Syracuse, N.Y., has been a focal point for many antiwar activists in the Northeast. On April 28 close to 300 marched, beat drums, and carried mock coffins; the sheriff’s department arrested 31 protesters on spurious charges of loitering, disorderly conduct, and obstructing government administration.

On April 27, Philadelphia-area activists picketed the former Willow Grove airbase in Horsham, Pa., which has been designated as a drones command center due to open in October. The Philadelphia antiwar movement has vowed to organize monthly protests throughout the summer to put a stop to the new   base.