Ground All Drones is a committee of Women Against Military Madness (WAMM) created to address the use of drones, particularly armed drones. Drones are developed worldwide, not only by the U.S. but by other nations as well. In the U.S.unarmed surveillance drones could be used to spy on citizens, a clear violation of our Fourth Amendment Rights. The current focus of this committee is on the use of weaponized drones.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Drones and 'What Makes Us Different'

by Joseph Nevins  Published on  Monday, January 25, 2016 by Common Dreams
The documentary Drone makes painfully clear that it is the U.S. government’s ability to kill at a distance—with impunity and with widespread support, or at least resignation, of the citizenry—that "makes us different" from other nations. (Still image: Drone, The Documentary)
Seven years ago this month and three days after Barack Obama assumed the presidency on January 20, 2009, the first drone strike of his administration took place--in a small village in the region of Pakistan known as North Waziristan. It targeted the family compound of Faheem Qureshi, fracturing the young teen’s skull and destroying one of his eyes, while killing, among others, two of his uncles and a 21-year-old cousin. The White House’s intended target, it was later revealed, was not, nor had he ever been, present at the site. About ten months later, the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced its decision to award Obama the annual Peace Prize “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”

In his speech at the Oslo City Hall upon accepting the prize on December 10, 2009, Obama insisted that “the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war,” suggesting that U.S. war-waging is somehow superior, more ethical, than those of the country’s adversaries. “That is what makes us different from those whom we fight,” he proclaimed. “That is a source of our strength.”

No doubt there are many things that distinguish the United States—not least the enormity of its military budget, and its global network of military bases. But as the documentary Drone (which premiered in the United States and Canada in late November and which includes footage from Obama’s speech) makes painfully clear, it is the U.S. government’s ability to kill at a distance—with impunity and with widespread support, or at least resignation, of the citizenry—that also “makes us different.”

Remotely piloted aircraft, what are popularly known as drones, allow the Pentagon and the U.S. intelligence apparatus to track and monitor individuals from afar with little risk. According to Brandon Bryant, a former drone operator interviewed in the film states, “We’re the ultimate voyeurs, the ultimate peeping toms. No one is going to catch us.”

It also allows the Pentagon to engage in what is effectively a global assassination program with little domestic cost. “It’s never been easier for an American president to carry out a killing operation at the ends of the earth at any time in American history,” explains Mark Mazzetti, a reporter with The New York Times. “And when you define the world as a battlefield, that’s a very broad range of operations you can carry out.”

An explosive series of articles published in October by The Intercept shows just how far-reaching—and, perhaps most damningly, indiscriminate—these operations are. Based on classified documents leaked to the online magazine by an unnamed whistleblower within the U.S. intelligence apparatus, the series exposes the falsehoods underlying official Washington’s spin on drone strikes. While Obama administration officials claim that civilian casualties are not common in drone strikes, the documents make clear that the Pentagon typically does not know who it has killed.
U.S. airstrikes carried out in northeastern Afghanistan between January 2012 and February 2013 (as part of Operation Haymaker), for example, killed more than 200 people, only 35 of whom were the intended targets. During one five-month period of the operation, according to the documents, nearly 90 percent of the people killed in airstrikes were not the intended targets. In Yemen and Somalia, where the U.S. has far more limited intelligence capabilities to confirm the people killed are the intended targets, the equivalent ratios may well be much worse.

That the U.S. government can and does kill in this way, and often in countries with which the United States is not even at war, with little protest at home, demonstrates one of the ways imperialism functions: the deaths of “others,” particularly those associated, even if only by virtue of where they happen to reside, with people and places constructed as threats, are not only undeserving of sympathy, they’re also barely noticed.

Writing soon after the November release of the video of the horrific police murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald—shot 16 times as he was moving away from Chicago police officers—New York Times columnist Charles Blow argues that the “only reason that these killings keep happening is because most of American society tacitly approves or willfully tolerates it. There is no other explanation. If America wanted this to end, it would end.”

Blow goes on to say that the “exceeding sad and dreadfully profound truth is that America — the majority of America, and that generally means much of white America — has turned away, averted its gaze and refused to take a strong moral stance in opposition. That’s the same as granting silent approval.”

These observations could just as easily apply to the Obama administration’s brutality toward Faheem Qureshi and the killing of his loved ones—and of so many others around the world. Just as white America must be made to overcome what Blow calls an “endemic anti-black bias” to help bring an end to the grossly disproportionate killing of African Americans by police, so, too, must the United States as a whole be made to “see the issue [in this case drones] as an intolerable human cruelty” to stop the Pentagon’s killing ways abroad.

Clive Stafford Smith, the director of the London-based human rights organization Reprieve, offers a similar analysis while speaking to a crowd of Pakistanis during the film Drone: “Until America sees your children as they see my children, we will never get justice in the world.”

Realizing the radically egalitarian vision implied by these words is obviously no easy task. This makes it all the more important that those of us who see all children, and adults, as being inherently of equal worth back the efforts of those opposing killer drones—from those of courageous U.S. air force veterans publicly denouncing the drone program to peace groups such as CODEPINK.

Supporting such efforts would be one small way to acknowledge what the United States has done to Faheem Qureshi and his family, something the Obama administration has thus far refused to do, and constitute a step in the long journey to a more just world. As Brandon Bryant, one of the air force whistleblowers has asserted, “At the end of our pledge of allegiance, we say ‘with liberty and justice for all.’ I believe that should be applied to not only American citizens, but everyone that we interact with as well, to put them on an equal level and to treat them with respect.”

In other words, we need to act in a fundamentally different way than one which involves the nationalist proclamation of “what makes us different” (and supposedly better).

Joseph Nevins is an associate professor of geography at Vassar College. His latest book is Dying to Live: A Story of U.S. Immigration in an Age of Global Apartheid (City Lights Books).

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Reflections – By Nick Mottern of Know Drones

January 2, 2016


I have been thinking over the last month about what might be worth saying at this time when our work to stop drone killing and surveillance has been met with the announcement that the United States government intends to expand its drone program.   And almost certainly the level of drone killing – assassination - is soaring as drones are integrated into an air war strategy that appears to be limitless in its intensity, geography and willingness to pummel defenseless, poor people into fleshy pulp and terror, with those left living attempting to scratch out survival amidst rubble and unsustainable communities.  (See this link, starting at 0:32

On Meet the Press, October 15, 2015 Chuck Todd asked Bernie Sanders: “…you’re comfortable with using drones if you think you’ve isolated an important terrorist?”  Sanders said “Yes” as part of a longer exchange in which he endorsed the Obama war practices and said that, if elected president, he would do this and more, with the qualification that the blood being spilled should be largely Arab.  (This exchange begins at 13:37 in the interview


But in this interview there is also a note of real hope with respect to drone war because, for whatever reason, Todd chose to be very specific in asking Sanders about whether drone war is OK.   And, earlier this week I was listening to the Midday Briefing on the POTUS satellite radio channel, and anchorman Tim Farley said the question of drone “assassination” is one that needs to be addressed although there was not time to do it during that particular program.

The point is that the legality and morality of drone war is by no means a settled issue in the mind of the U.S. press and possibly a significant number of the American people.  Drone war is seen as war by assassination, killing without due process based on relentless stalking of thousands of people.  There is a moral stench to this that no amount of official talk can blow away. 

To this point, in a remarkable presentation a year ago at a drone conference at Princeton Theological Seminary, former Congressman Rush Holt spoke of drone war as assassination, and he sketched out the ethos that supports it and some of its inescapable moral implications. (See this link, starting at 1:13:05, which includes an introduction of Holt by the Rev. Robert More, Executive Director of the Peace Action Education Fund.


The moral stench of drone assassination is of broad significance, of course, because drone assassination is so central to the Obama “targeted killing” war strategy that involves the use of special operations forces as well as drones.  Niall Ferguson, an historian and geopolitical analyst of some renown, who advocates increasing US military strength, surprisingly said the following about Obama’s war strategy in an interview in Barron’s newspaper, published December 28, 2015:

“The resources that go into producing radicalism aren’t about to disappear.  Networks are difficult to decapitate.

“The president (Obama) has failed to understand this because his model is decapitation.  You think, let’s take out the boss.  Then your are amazed to find the network (still) grows.”

Kelly and Tolstoy

Kathy Kelly told me earlier this week that she is finding compelling reading in Leo Tolstoy’s “The Slavery in Our Time”, a profound work that examines the dependency of governments on violence, completed in 1900.
The whole thing is very worth reading; here is a quote, among others, that seems appropriate to our involvement in drone war and war.

“I have one life, and why should I act contrary to the voice of my conscience in this brief life and become a participant in your abominable deeds?  I will not do so.

“What will come of that?  I do not know.  But I think that nothing bad can happen from my acting as my conscience commands me to act.”

So it is encouraging to me to be reminded that conscience is what caused an unnamed whistleblower to release “The Drone Papers”, published in October 2015 and what brought the four drone whistleblowers forward in November.

It may be that we will find it liberating, and more effective, to have to argue to stop drone war, and war, solely on the basis of conscience now that fear among the public has undermined the value of arguing about the cost or effectiveness of systematic, methodical governmental killing. 

In short, I find comfort and encouragement in this time in what appears to be the indomitable power of conscience.



Plans are moving forward for the “Real State of the Union” protest on Jan. 12 in Washington, DC and at Beale AFB outside Sacramento, CA and Creech AFB outside Las Vegas.  An explanation of this protest appeared in last month’s drone organizers bulletin.

The protest in Washington is planned to start at 1:30 pm on the sidewalk in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.  More details will be published here next week in a special drone organizers bulletin.

The protests at Beale and Creech are scheduled to run from 6 am8 am.  For more details contact Mauro Oliveira: