Syracuse Peace Conference—Unmasking Drone Warfare

by Mary Beth Moore, SC

The shorthand is “drones”, and the technical name is “unmanned Aerial
Vehicles [UAVs]”, but either way they have carried out bombing attacks since
2001, tools in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and now continuing in the
so-called “war on terror.”   Drone warfare was the theme of the Syracuse
Peace Conference, held in the city of that name from April 27-29th, which
drew some 275 peacemakers from around New York State .  The purpose of the
conference was to learn the facts, get inspired and move to action to
protest drone warfare.  The conference culminated in a rally and solemn
procession to Hancock Air force Base just outside the city, one of the sites
where human beings carry out remote attacks in six countries.

The conference presenters were uniformly excellent.  Kathy Kelly of Voices
for Peace gave an inspiring opening conference, movingly conveying her
personal encounter with an anguished Pakistani  mother whose innocent child
had been maimed by a drone. She put a human face on statistics: between 2004
and 2012 the CIA has conducted over 330 drone attacks in Pakistan alone,
killing about 3,000 people including 175 children.  Noted author and
activist Bruce Gagnon posed a simple logical argument: the deliberately
killing another human being in the conduct of war is deemed legal; the
deliberate killing of another human being outside the conduct of war is
deemed murder.  If the United States government is not at war with Pakistan,
Yemen, Somalia, how can deliberate killing be justified?   Deborah Sweet of
the nuclear disarmament project “World Can’t Wait” challenged participants
to move past their political affiliations to make clearer judgments about
the Obama administration’s justification of and secrecy about targeted
killings.  (As is public knowledge, President Obama himself gives the final
o.k. for targeted drone attacks.)

Among compelling testimonies from several U.S. veterans, retired Colonel
Anne Wright stood out.  A career officer who resigned her commission in 2003
over the Iraq war, she urged all to consider the rage engendered by drone
attacks. Sarah Ahmed, a young woman from Iraq affirmed that for victims, all
they know of the United States is that it perpetrates drone attacks.

On Sunday, conference participants processed to Hancock Air Force Base.
They reminded U.S. military that, “Drone use violates the US Constitution,
Article 6, and International Law, which the U.S. has signed on to.  [We]
also object to the militarization of the police and the growing domestic use
of drones. … drone use globally makes Americans unsafe because of the blow
back effect.”  Thirty-one protesters were arrested for trespassing on the
Base.

Yet, the conference experience can’t be conveyed without noting the
solidarity, hope and commitment among participants. This is the alternative
community we long for.  The local organizers created an atmosphere of
welcome, with hot coffee available all day, and sufficient food for
breakfast and lunch for all participants.

The message is clear:  we must resist the onslaught of an endless war and
its tools, such as drones, if true security and the health of the planet is
our goal. Take action:  go to www.knowdrones.com
Learn more; educate others about drones.  Write to President Obama with
the message: “Drones are immoral and illegal.  They create rage against the
United States wherever they are deployed. Stop drone warfare.”