Monday, June 1, 2009

Activists Protest Drone Warfare

Published in YES! Magazine, Summer 2009

Fourteen peace activists were arrested on April 10 at Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nevada, during a 10-day vigil protesting unmanned aircraft strikes along the Afghan-Pakistan border. The activists, who were participants in an interfaith Sacred Peace Walk organized by the Nevada Desert Experience, sought to engage in dialogue with Air Force personnel operating Predator and Reaper drones from the base.

In addition to causing numerous civilian casualties, the strikes have contributed to a deepening humanitarian crisis in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province and Federally Administered Tribal Areas. According to UNICEF, over 860,000 displaced persons from those areas, including 325,000 children, are in dire need of water, nutrition, sanitation, education, and health care.

Despite warnings by Pakistani intelligence officials that ongoing strikes will further destabilize the country, the Obama administration has declared its intention to intensify drone attacks. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has announced he will seek $2 billion in additional funding for unmanned aircraft for the 2010 budget, including 50 more drones. This will represent a 62 percent increase in the military’s capability to carry out drone operations.

The activists view their June 9 arraignment in Las Vegas as an opportunity to build support for their “Ground the Drones…Lest We Reap the Whirlwind” campaign. In addition to holding a monthly vigil at Creech, the Nevada Desert Experience plans to draw further attention to the issue during its August Desert Witness, which commemorates the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

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