ACTION ALERT: Anti-Drone Movement Speaks: 'End the Secrecy, No to Kill List'
November 20, 2013
Sarah Lazare / Common Dreams & Alex Pasternack / Vice.com & Alison Fu / The Daily Californian
Activists from across the globe kicked off the largest-ever anti-drone summit Friday with a boisterous White House rally then march to the headquarters of one of the most notorious weapons manufacturers in the world. "After ten years of using drones it is about time that American citizens demand accountability from our government," said organizer Medea Benjamin of Code Pink.
Wounds of Waziristan Trailer from AJ Russo on Vimeo.
Anti-Drone Movement Speaks: 'End the Secrecy, No to Kill List'
'After ten years of using drones it is about time that American citizens demand accountability from our government'
Sarah Lazare / Common Dreams
Video streaming by Ustream
LIVE STREAMING: Saturday's "Drones Around the Globe: Proliferation and Resistance," a drone summit organized by CODEPINK.
WASHINGTON, DC (November 15, 2013) -- Activists from across the globe kicked off the largest-ever anti-drone summit Friday with a boisterous White House rally then march to the headquarters of one of the most notorious weapons manufacturers in the world.
"After ten years of using drones it is about time that American citizens demand accountability from our government," said organizer Medea Benjamin of Code Pink in an interview with Common Dreams. "Our government has been getting away with a covert program killing innocent people in our names. It is high time we react and say no to killings, no to secrecy, and no to a kill list."
"Our government has been getting away with a covert program killing innocent people in our names. It is high time we react and say no to killings, no to secrecy, and no to a kill list."
-- Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK
This historic gathering comes amid a growing chorus of criticism of the drone wars, now led by President Obama, following the first-ever testimony of Pakistani drone strike survivors before US Congress, as well as growing concern from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the United Nations over drones.
Attendees include representatives from some of the most drone-ravaged parts of the world, including Yemen, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
After a somber ceremony at the White House to commemorate those who have died in drone strikes, scores of protesters "took over the streets" according to Benjamin and marched to the Washington, DC headquarters of General Atomics where they held a die-in.
"We re-enacted what it is like when drones terrorize a community," said Benjamin. "We handed General Atomics a letter saying we have seen first-hand the destruction they have caused in Yemen and Pakistan. We encouraged them to stop making things that hurt people. We told them that if they feel remorse, they are welcome to give compensation to victims."
The drone summit, which will continue over the weekend, was organized by CODEPINK, the Institute for Policy Studies, The Nation Magazine, Center for Constitutional Rights, and National Lawyers Guild (Georgetown Chapter).
A group statement explains, "In addition to [a] Yemeni delegation, the Summit will include drone pilots, legal experts, human rights advocates, authors, technology experts, artists and grassroots activists."
The gathering is expected to draw over 400 people and include a lobbying day Monday. One of the pieces of legislation that attendees will advocate for is the drone strike transparency bill, which recently passed the Senate Intelligence Committee. Advocates say this bill -- which would require the Obama administration to report on civilians killed by drone strikes -- is paradigm-shifting in a war where the US kills with impunity behind a veil of secrecy.
"This bill is absolutely crucial," said Robert Naiman of Just Foreign Policy in an interview with Common Dreams. "Until now, the administration has gotten away with saying civilian casualties have been rare, but independent reporting has said the opposite."
"We're gathering at a time where there is an undeniable momentum against drones," said Benjamin.
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Unmanned: America's Drone Wars
Brave New Foundation
In Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars, the eighth full-length feature documentary from Brave New Foundation, director Robert Greenwald investigates the impact of U.S. drone strikes at home and abroad. The film contains never-before-seen footage from the tribal regions in Pakistan and interviews with Pakistani drone survivors, providing viewers with an intimate look into the lives of those devastated by drone strikes.
What people are saying about the film:
"Robert Greenwald now puts a face on U.S. drone policy. Unmanned is essential viewing if you want to understand what’s going on.”
-- Oliver Stone
"It's a powerful movie that shakes you to your core unless you're a person with no moral core to begin with."
-- Cenk Uygur
Thanks to a generous donor, Brave New Foundation is able to provide this film for FREE for a limited time! Click here to sign up for a free link to watch the film.
Please ask your friends and family members to help us spread the word! Can we count on you to send them this link and ask them to sign up to watch this important film? With your help we can educate and engage enough people and work to change the U.S. drone policy and end the indiscriminate killing of men, women, and children.
Peace Action West • 2201 Broadway, Ste 321 Oakland, CA 94612. 800.949.9020
Protest Obama's Drone Policy in SF
(November 17, 2013) -- On the eve of President Obama's high-roller fundraiser, CODEPINK, World Can't Wait and others will screen the film Unmanned: America's Drone War or Wounds of Waziristan or both Sunday, November 24, 2013 at 6pm to 7:30pm.
President Obama will be in San Francisco to attend a high-roller luncheon at the new SF JAZZ Center in Hayes Valley on Monday, November 25, 2013.
Obama’s drone policy is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent civilians in Pakistan and Yemen. Since he has taken office, deadly drone strikes have increased, causing more drone bases to pop up to engage in surveillance and targeted killing. Join us to say stop the killing!
Sunday, Nov. 24th 6-7:30pm, SF JAZZ Center, 201 Franklin St., San Francisco, CA 94012 RSVP via Facebook!
Protest Against Barack Obama’s Deadly Drones!
Join us as we protest against President Barack Obama's use of deadly drones! President Obama will be in San Francisco to attend a high-roller luncheon at the new SF Jazz Center in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley.
Monday, Nov 25 at 11:00am to 1:30pm! Assemble at Patricia’s Green Park on Octavia St. & Hayes St. at 11AM in Hayes Valley. March to the SF Jazz Center at 11:30am where we will have an outside presence against US/CIA drone strikes. Be flexible because we might have to move locations. RSVP via Facebook!
Let’s make San Francisco a Drone Free Zone!
New Films on US Drone Wars
More Anti-Drone News:
This weekend, the second Anti-Drone Summit in Washington, D.C. brought together notable anti-drone voices from several countries for a conference, strategy session, and protest. We’re eager to hear a reportback from Debra Sweet, who presented and participated (and was livetweeting throughout), and hear about national plans to strengthen and raise the impact of active resistance, opposition, and struggle against America’s newest mode of mass murder from the skies.
Watch for tomorrow’s email for new plans for next week’s Bay Area demonstrations (including outside Obama’s San Francisco speech on Monday November 25). Meanwhile, we want to urge you to watch AND SPREAD two new documentaries: Robert Greenwald’s Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars which is streaming free for a limited time, and the trailer for Wounds of Waziristan by journalist Madiha Tahir. We’ll be doing outdoor showings of both next week, so if you want to join the sidewalk movie crew contact us. Here’s what World Can’t Wait’s national website says about these films:
"Unmanned: America's Drone Wars"
For a limited time, you can stream Robert Greenwald's new film for free.
In "Unmanned: America's Drone Wars," the eighth full-length feature documentary from Brave New Foundation, director Robert Greenwald investigates the impact of US drone strikes at home and abroad through more than 70 separate interviews, including a former American drone operator who shares what he has witnessed in his own words, Pakistani families mourning loved ones and seeking legal redress, investigative journalists pursuing the truth, and top military officials warning against blowback from the loss of innocent life.
Throughout "Unmanned," Greenwald intersperses in-depth interviews with never-before-seen footage from the tribal regions in Pakistan to humanize those who have been impacted by our drone policy. This footage, alongside interviews with Pakistani drone survivors, describes the brutal reality of drone attacks ordered during the Obama Administration.
The film highlights the stories of 16-year-old Tariq Aziz, killed by a drone a mere week after he participated in a public conference in Islamabad in 2011, and a school teacher, Rafiq ur Rehamn, grappling with the loss of his elderly mother and the hospitalization of his children due to a drone strike last year, showing how delicate life can be in this virtual war where no one is accepting responsibility for the casualties.
In candid conversations with experts like Lawrence Wilkerson, former Chief of State to Secretary of State Colin Powell; David Kilcullen former advisor to NATO and General Petraeus; and Vicki Divoli, former deputy legal advisor to the CIA's counterterrorism Center, Unmanned reveals that these covert military actions are often imprecise and result in creating more enemies for the American people who have little knowledge of how drone targets are set and the killings carried out.
For more about the film, to find a screening, and to sign up to see the film, go to unmanned.warcosts.com.
"Wounds of Waziristan"
The Story of Drones As Told By the People Who Live Under Them
Alex Pasternack, Vice.com
October 25, 2013) -- The drone war is obscure by design. Operated by armchair pilots from clandestine bases across the American west, the Predators and Reapers fly over Afghanistan, Yemen, and Pakistan's Tribal Areas at invisible heights, where they are on orders from the CIA to kill "high value" targets with laser-guided "surgical" precision thousands of feet below. But because of where the Hellfire missiles land, and because the program is operated in secret, verifying their precision and their lasting effects isn't easy.
For years, US officials have downplayed the number of civilian deaths in particular, even as a chorus of independent reports have offered their own grim estimates. The latest, according to new research by the United Nations and Amnesty International: 58 civilians killed in Yemen, and up to nine hundred in Pakistan.
In a speech in May, President Obama finally broke his silence on drones, acknowledging that civilians had been killed—he didn't say how many -- and promising more transparency for the program. “Those deaths," added the President, "will haunt us for as long as we live."
For journalist Madiha Tahir, the numbers are important, but they're not the whole story. Her documentary "Wounds of Waziristan" [trailer above]... features interviews with the people who live in the southern part of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, bordering Afghanistan, under the eyes of the drones, and in the wake of their destruction. The film switches up the typical calculus that drives the drone debate at home.
Tahir, who grew up between Pakistan and the U.S., points out that drone strikes aren't just about the numbers of casualties, or the kinds of ethical arguments that arise around "just war" concepts like proportionality. The effects of the drone war have as much to do with the way those casualties rip apart communities and haunt the living, in distant places that exist on the fringes of law and order.
"Because drones are at a certain remove, there is a sense of uncertainty, a sense that you can't control this," Tahir says, describing the attitude among the people who live in Waziristan. Already haunted by the legacy of British colonialism and the laws it left behind, this part of the Tribal Areas is now ruled with a brutal fist by the Pakistani military and various insurgent groups.
But the buzz of the drones, sometimes seven or eight overhead a day, signals another kind of indeterminate power. "Whether its true or not, people feel that with militants there is some degree of control. You can negotiate. There is some cause and effect. But there is no cause and effect with drones. It's an acute kind of trauma that is not limited to the actual attack."
For the operators of the drone program, who have launched more than 300 missile attacks in Pakistan since 2008, the political vacuum of the Tribal Areas have encouraged a special kind of war-on-terror calculus. As the New York Times reported last year, the American government has been counting all military-age males in a strike zone as “militants,” which leads to skewed figures about who exactly has been killed.
The Obama administration has executed "signature strikes," drone attacks based on a so-called “pattern of life” analysis in which simply suspicious behavior is enough to qualify for an attack. And in a so-called "double tap" maneuver, a second attack follows an initial strike, killing those who have come to recover bodies from the scene.
"When an attack happens, the media claims to know how many militants were killed," says Noor Behram, a journalist in the Tribal Areas who has been photographing the casualties of drone strikes for years. "Actually, you only find body parts on the scene, so people can't tell how many have died."
In one interview, Tahir speaks with a man from South Waziristan named Karim Khan, whose brother and son were killed in a drone strike. "What is the definition of terrorism?" he asks her, and she returns the question to him. His tired eyes light up.
"I think there is no bigger terrorist than Obama or Bush," he says. "Those who have weaponry like drones, who drop bombs on us while we are in our own homes, there are no greater terrorists than them."
Despite the secrecy, independent reports by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, combined with a set of leaked cables detailing dealings between Islamabad and Washington and published in the Washington Post, have shed new light on the still-secret program.
On October 29, a family injured in a strike that Amnesty International mentions in its report is scheduled to testify before Congress (though their lawyer, Shahzad Akbar, who also appears in the film, has been denied a visa.)
In a separate report last week to the UN, which is due to be discussed before the General Assembly in New York on Friday, the special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism Ben Emmerson called for the US to declassify the program, which he said may be in violation of international laws -- a claim that many officials and rights groups have echoed. The US, which has slowed the rate of drone strikes to their lowest level in five years, insists they are "necessary, legal, and just."
"By hiding behind arguments of secrecy and exploiting the difficulty in confirming details of specific strikes due to the lawlessness, remoteness and insecurity of Pakistan's Tribal Areas," Emmerson writes, "the USA is contributing to the litany of violations and abuses endured by a population that has been both neglected and assaulted by their own state and victimized by al-Qa'ida, the Taliban and other armed groups."
Reports like the UN's can help make the effects of drone strikes more tangible, Tahir says. But deeper, persistent wounds linger, ones that are harder to calculate. "There need to be ways we can talk about drones beyond the legal discourse," she says. "What are the ways we can think about what it means to experience life under drones, and about exactly what it means to be, as the President said, 'haunted' by the loss of life."
For more, see the film's website, Madiha's website, and find her on Twitter.
Students Silently Protest US Government’s Use of Drones
Alison Fu / The Daily California
BERKELEY, Calif. (November 14, 2013) -- Dressed in all black with solemn expressions on their faces, students from UC Berkeley and nearby schools stood on the steps of Sproul Hall midday Wednesday to silently protest the government use of drones both domestically and overseas.
About 40 demonstrators stood side by side in front of Sproul Hall, holding signs with phrases such as “Drones don’t make us safer; violence begets violence” to pique the interest of passers-by and inspire them to question the necessity of U.S. drone strikes in countries such as Pakistan and Yemen. Protesters also voiced concerns about the possible use of drones in Oakland.
“Drone strikes are not effective,” said Marium Navid, co-chair of the UC Berkeley Muslim Students Association’s political action committee, which organized the protest. “The more you hit these villages, the more you kill civilians. This is not just a Muslim issue; it’s a matter of social justice.
During the hour-long protest, solemn music played in the background as several protesters silently acted out hypothetical drone strikes in scenes representing the calm before a strike, the panic during the bombing and the despair of the aftermath.
Many government officials, including former U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, however, have supported the use of drones in the military.
“They are excellent surveillance platforms to find out what’s going on in your enemies’ territory,” Blair said in an interview with the Council on Foreign Relations in January. “They can be used to attack hostile forces directly.”
But according to Navid and several other participants, drone strikes have created more destruction than good, often killing more civilians than terrorists. The killing of civilians influences people in bombed areas to become terrorists, Navid said, which directly opposes the government’s goals.
“Just because we don’t see them doesn’t mean they don’t happen every day to people all over this Earth,” said Nadya Tannous, a UC Santa Cruz alumna who spoke to the crowd on Sproul Plaza during the protest. “It is inhumane, and we are here to say that this is wrong.”
The protest also included an appearance by Danza In Xochitl In Cuicatl, an Aztec dance group on campus that also opposes the use of drones. Several members of the group drummed and danced in the middle of Sproul Plaza to bless the protest before the performances began.
“It really strikes deep and makes me determined to do something about this,” said Maddie Elias, a UC Berkeley freshman who stopped to watch the demonstration. “I knew that there was conflict about drones, but I didn’t know all this.”
Alison Fu covers city news. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @alisonfu_.
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